Stiff Upper Lip

I’ve been thinking a lot about words lately. Last week, I shared a blog post about how powerful words can be. A few days ago, I published an essay about how important it is to be aware of the power of your words when sharing online.

I wrote the essay after watching a preview clip of Meghan Markle’s interview. She discussed how the British tabloids have impacted her life and how difficult this journey has been. Yesterday, another clip from Markle’s interview was released. In the new clip, she discusses how she tried to adopt the British’s “stiff upper lip” but revealed that “what that does internally is probably really damaging.” 

I like that Meghan Markle acknowledges this in the interview because it humanizes her. It’s refreshing to see her open up. I think it’s important that she acknowledged there’s damage in pretending everything is fine when it’s not. Her choosing in that moment to be honest about the difficulties she endures shows why it’s important not to allow your emotions to get lost in the craziness of life.

All too often, we’re told to swallow our feelings and go about life as though everything is fine. In actuality, everyone has something they’re going through. That doesn’t mean you have to tell every single person your life problems. But you don’t have to pretend like everything is fine around those who care about you and are there for you. Feeling emotions is often seen as weak. But feeling emotions doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. When things are hard, processing emotions by allowing yourself to feel them is better than not letting anyone know you’re hurt and swallowing your tears.

At the end of the clip that was released yesterday, Meghan Markle mentioned how she takes things day by day because that’s all she can do. That’s what we can all do, take it one day at a time.

Something Meaningful

When I was a kid, I used to express my opinion to the other kids as though what I had to say would somehow be useful to them. I was speaking in the way children often copy adults. I didn’t know the gravity of the words I was using. I just knew they made me feel like what I was saying held meaning. I felt important when giving life advice to other 6th graders on the playground next to the jungle gym as one girl hung upside down on a steel bar.

I can’t recall what I said to those kids but the feeling that my words could mean something to others stuck. Besides the fact that I have a stutter, I thought if I paid close enough attention to what the adults around me were saying, I would be able to harness that meaningful feeling while handing out life advice I knew nothing about.

In retrospect, it’s clear to me that I was always meant to be a writer. As a kid and throughout my teen years, I would make up stories in my head. The stories began with me doing things I would never be able to do in my real life, like owning a silver Volkswagen Beetle at age 9 and drive it around the neighborhood, be best friends with Britney Spears and Hilary Duff, or have a horse of my own that I’d love and take a care of. As I got older, I fell out of the stories as the protagonist. Instead, I would choose other people to be my characters and come up with stories that way.

I think I’ve subconsciously always tried to feel as though my words mean something. Not because of how I speak, but because I’ve always known that words are powerful. What you say or write can impact someone else’s life. Words allow you to express what you’re feeling and what you think, it’s kind of mindblowing when you stop and think about it.

With my writing, my main objective is to get people to slow down and think outside their perspective. I want people to appreciate life more because it is so precious. People can get lost in the busyness of their daily lives. Words are powerful. How you use them will impact whoever comes into contact with what you share. Remember that.

Waiting Room Blues

My mother waits longer than she had anticipated for me to walk back thru the door I entered half an hour ago. Whenever she’s left in the waiting room, nothing good comes from it.

The first time, I lost three wrong teeth. I was twelve. “You’re old enough to go back by yourself,” she told me. When I was in the chair, the dentist told me they were taking out my expander, something I wasn’t aware of. But I was too young to be my only advocate. I tried to speak up but I was told I was incorrect. I didn’t question it and assumed everyone in the room was on my side.

This time, I learned yet another thing is wrong with my eyes. I’m twenty-five. When the eye doctor, whom I had never met before, came in to talk to me and do more testing, I felt like an adult since my mom didn’t come back with me like she always does, which felt kind of strange.

I like a second pair of ears when it comes to doctor situations. Casual check ups at dermatologists and dentists, I can do on my own. But when it comes to appointments where some part of my body is being looked at more seriously, such as lungs, eyes, or thyroid, I prefer to have someone else in the room to hear what the doctor is saying, someone who has my best interest at heart.

But there I was, sitting in an examination room, taking tests and speaking with new doctors and nurses, being my own advocate. While waiting in-between tests, without a phone or book (I left them with my mom), I reflect on what she said when I left. “You can do this on your own,” she told me. This surprised me. I had presumed she would come back with me like she always does. Later, I would learn that she had assumed I would be back out after testing, ten minutes tops.

I have been to enough of these doctors in the last couple of months to know that I get placed in an exam room after testing. I guess I am old enough to do this on my own. Why wouldn’t I be? I was able to communicate just fine. It just feels weird not to have my mom back here. It feels even weirder with nothing to do to pass the time. I stare at the screen in the mirror that I can’t read. Letters appear fuzzy. My eyes hate me.

The nurse takes me to another room for additional imaging and I begin to plot a plan to get my water bottle and maybe get my mom back here with me. As the nurse is getting the test set up, I ask if when we’re finished, I can go and get my water from my mom. She says that’s perfectly fine and I stare at a blinding light four times because the first two times didn’t get a good look at my eyes.

When I go and grab my water bottle, my mom asks me what’s going on, I’ve been gone for thirty minute. I say I’ve been having tests done and motion her to come with me. I’m surprised she’s been wondering where I’ve been. Though, whatever the miscommunication was quickly gets pushed aside as I introduce my mom to the eye doctor and we’re told I have Keratoconus. As soon as we’re told why this is, the possible treatments, and the process of monitoring the disease, we’re sent on our way.

“Why does something bad always happen when you go back by yourself?” My mom jokes with me as we leave. I can’t help but laugh myself. It’s ironic how these things happen when my mom sends me off own my own. And it’s surreal to be told yet another thing is wrong with my eyes. To be honest, I’m still processing all of it.

Quiet Vignettes from Yesterday

I woke up thinking the time on my phone had automatically switched forward. It had not. I spent the first hour or two of my day thinking it was a different time. Fortunately, I realized my phone’s problem when I looked at the time on my computer. Unfortunately, the medication I had meant to take earlier was taken later than expected. My body’s clock was off too, it’s okay.

Lesson learned: you can’t always trust technology has everything figured out before you. Thank god we still have some control on what happens on our small devices, even when it completely messes up your perception of the day for a good five minutes or so.

I laid in my bed for a good forty-five minutes, allowing my eyes to rest. My eyes were screaming at me in silence for pushing them to look up their own without craning my neck up to see a screen that was about twenty feet away from me. Swollen muscles were pulled in directions they didn’t want to go. A fan was blowing air and my phone was blasting the sound of rain in springtime. I was focused on my breathing, hands on my belly as I felt the air drift in and out of my lungs. My eyes eventually calmed, enjoying a moment without needing to stare at anything or completely drift off to sleep. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this still for this long.

I was reading a book I could not put down. I told myself I would read one more chapter three chapters and thirty pages ago. I hadn’t been that into a book in quite some time. I was reminded of why I love telling stories. Those moments where I’m transported into someone’s mind have always been my favorite. The fan was still blowing air.

Emotion washed over me like a wave I didn’t see coming. I couldn’t articulate words correctly because I had a difficult time trying to comprehend this unexpected feeling. It’s like I ran into a wall without looking and now I’m conflicted within myself. It’s difficult to feel something and have no idea how to articulate it. Tears fell from my eyes. These tears were more intense than I’m used to, so I hunched over and cried more. No one understood what was happening, neither did I exactly.

My eyes were screaming at me in silence for crying. So I cried more because pain has no limits when I’ve already unlocked the box of tears. My eyes felt heavy like they’re experiencing dual migraines. I didn’t know this feeling was possible. Maybe it’s not, and I was just overthinking things as I often tend to do.

I had been waiting all day to eat this cookie dough ice cream, and after taking my fifth and final pill of the day, I was slurping it down while finishing a New Yorker article I had slowly been reading for the last couple of days. The springtime rain blasted from my phone once again as I tried to comprehend the words on the page as best I could. Names often bleed together when so many are mentioned in the course of a single section. It’s crazy to read about what people choose to overlook and how things could have been different if someone was brave enough to speak up.

I was reading a chapter of another book before falling asleep. The more I looked at the lines, the words began to float off the page, detaching from the original text to become two. My eyes were done for the day, signaling through a pretty frightful message that I had gone numb to, that whatever was on the page wasn’t worth it. I took off my glasses and turned off the light. I snuggled into my comforter as a horn from a train travels across the night air into my ears as I gave my eyes what they wanted: rest.

A Response

As kids, we are taught that being different is a negative. We try our best to fit in with our peers. Sticking out can cause unwanted attention we try to avoid. In the last couple of years, our society has become more accepting. We’re nowhere near an inclusive society but over these last couple of years, steps have been made to become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. There’s still a lot of hate towards people who are deemed as different but there’s also been an overwhelming amount of love too.

The United Methodist Church I’ve attended over the last thirteen years has always been welcoming to people from all walks of life. Regardless of where you’re from or who you love, you’re welcome. For me, my faith journey has evolved over the years and while I haven’t believed in God in the traditional sense in quite a few years, I like the messages my pastors’ share. How it’s okay to question things about your own beliefs. Everyone is on a different path and no one is right or wrong. You don’t have to have it all figured out or believe one thing to attend a service. For me, my church is a place I can disconnect from society to make sense of current events and the thoughts swirling around in my head.

I’m saddened by the events that took place that caused headlines to read that United Methodist denomination isn’t inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community. There should not be a disconnect between us and them and making that stance clear as a denomination is damaging. Thankfully, I’ve always felt loved and welcomed at my church when I was questioning things in my life and parts of myself that make me different. And after yesterday’s service, I still feel that love from my church regardless of what the global denomination wants to say.

Fighting the Urge of Phone Addiction

Awareness of a technology addiction is one thing. Trying to change habits that are so ingrained in your psyche is a whole other beast. I’ve known for years now how dependent I am on technology. I’ve joked about it with family and friends. Joking about it makes it not real. Joking about it makes it a silly habit.

It wasn’t until Apple had a software update called screentime that shows how much time you spend on your phone that I was faced with the reality of what my casual phone habit had become. Once I could see the hours I raked up by numbers and data instead of estimates in my head, things didn’t change, at least not right away. I’d continue my old habits despite the evidence I spend too much had looming in my head several times. A few times, I even took off screentime so I didn’t have to know how many hours I was spending on my phone.

These last few months have been difficult and I found myself slipping into the habit of checking my phone at least every few minutes, if not every thirty seconds. I knew I had a lot going on so I thought it was okay to be distracted. That’s how I’ve always coped with unexpected shifts and major changes in my life. It comes as natural to me as breathing.

It’s not until I have distracted myself long enough that I can begin to really process and accept what is happening that I become aware of how much of a time suck a small screen can be. The worst part is being aware of a bad habit and trying to control it instead of allowing it to control me. It’s a battle within myself, my conscious mind trying to step into my subconscious. It takes time and hard work to change bad habits. Trial and error without judgment or criticism of myself are hard. Elimination of it all together only lasts for so long. Blocking of apps cost money. Setting controls and time constraints don’t work when I know the password.

Finally, I had enough of this and I asked my mom put in a passcode into my phone so I wasn’t able to extend past the limits I had set for myself. From 10 pm to 9 am, a lot of the apps on my phone are blocked off. This allows me to begin and end my day by doing other things or using my phone in a more productive way. For apps I use the most (i.e. Instagram), I have a two hour limit within that eleven-hour time span to be on it and when time’s up, I no longer have access to it unless I ask my mom to put in the code, which is surprisingly rare.

Now, a lot of you might be reading this and think, “two hours is a long time to be on an app.” I know it is. I could be doing more productive things with my time. However, I used to spend so much more time on that app, the number is too high for me to want to share it. Two hours is a reasonable and big drop from how much time I was spending on it before. It forces me to balance things in a way I wasn’t able to before. With only having a limited amount of time on an app, I have to prioritize my time if I want to check it throughout the day. Because once time’s up, I have to wait until tomorrow to check it again.

It’s been a real learning lesson for me. It’s better than eliminating it altogether and I’ve had to hold myself accountable for this habit I had unknowingly created. Obviously, I’m not the only one who has a social media/phone habit. Apple wouldn’t have created this screentime feature if only a few people had a problem. There wouldn’t be apps like Forest that forces you to step away from your phone any time from 10 minutes to two hours in exchange to build a tree and create a forest to have you focus and be present in your life. In the Apple app store, it’s said that over 2 million people in 126 countries have used this app in order to control their screentime.

The urge to always be on my phone is real. It’s both comforting and terrifying to know that I’m not the only one who spends too much time on my phone. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend less time on social media. I’m trying to break bad habits and find balance in my life. After months and years of struggling with my social media activity, I’m beginning to find balance and change how I use social media.

We’re living in a time where social media and the news cycle is both addictive and overwhelming. How much is too much? When living in a digital age, how do you find balance between using your time online vs. offline? How do you stay focused on what matters? Are you aware of how much time you’re spending on your phone? If you were able to see it in numbers, would you be willing to change?

There’s a real urge to look at your phone whenever you can. You only feel it when you’re trying to fight yourself from looking at it. All of this technology is still very new and it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Smartphones are already becoming less exciting with the updates not being extravagant enough for people wanting to upgrade their phones.

I’ve been reading articles about smartphone addiction and I came across this article worth reading. The fact that there’s shame around how much we use our phones is crazy to me. And yet, I don’t want to admit how many hours a day I was on my phone before I really began to find a balance because it’s embarrassing. I once told some people about how much I was on when it was on the low spectrum for me and they were appalled by how much time I was spending.

But then, once some of them started using screentime and began seeing their minutes add up, they began to change their tune. One of them even told me, “I didn’t realize how quickly all that time added up until I actually saw the numbers.” What can we do to fight this habit? It’s different for every person. For me, I try not to have my phone on or around me when I’m around other people. Setting time limits, build a tree with the Forest app, and leaving my phone in another room when I’m trying to not have it around me.

The first step is being aware of how you use your phone and why you gravitate towards it. The next step is to make a change. It’s not easy fighting the urge of a bad habit but if we want our future to be controlled by people and not robots, we need to begin the process now before it’s too late.

What a Year 2018 Has Been.

This year has felt like it has been five years at the same time it feels like it’s gone by in a blink of an eye. For America, we’ve gone through so many ups and downs that I have forgotten much of what has happened because so much happens every single day. For me personally, I’ve gone through some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows I have ever experienced in this last year.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in February. Something I knew was coming but had avoided for much of last year, besides the fact that there were some physical signs that something clearly wasn’t right. That took a while for me to process because it’s a disease you can’t physically see. Acceptance came about a month or so later. Then, in October, after having gained puffy eyes over the summer and seeing double in early fall, I was diagnosed with Grave’s. Most people cannot have both antibodies at one time.

Last week, my doctor told me that I’m a mystery because my numbers aren’t where she suspected they would be at this point. I’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations in 2018 and unfortunately, I see this continuing into the next year; though I’m hoping it will be a little less intense. My health has been the majority of my lows this year. It’s not fun not knowing what your body is capable of and finding out long after the damage had been done is a tough pill to swallow.

However, a lot of good things have happened this year as well. I published a short film at the beginning of the year. I got TWO pieces published that I’m extremely proud of and so grateful they have found a home. The essay is about how I found writing and the ways it has helped me with my stutter. The poem is about my stutter and how what you hear is only the surface layer of who I am.

I haven’t said this online yet but I might as well share it because it’s something I’ve worked hard on and I’m very proud of. Earlier this year, I finished the first draft of a story that has the possible potential of one day being published as a book AND last month I finished a fifth draft of said story. I’m very happy with how it’s coming along.

On top of all that, a couple of weeks ago, I graduated from college with a BA in English with honors! I never thought that would happen and with everything going on this year, I thought it may not happen. But I’ve worked very hard and so, so happy with finishing my degree.

I’m sure 2019 will be full of new adventures, hardships, and possibilities. I’m excited and ready to see what the next chapter of my life will be. It will be an interesting year. Personally, it will be a big one. As a country, I’m curious to see how much of this year we will remember at this time next year. I’m hoping movements formed these last couple of years continue to speak up and fight for rights in 2019. I hope you all have a safe and great New Year!