Empathy on Steroids (not the drug)

I’ve been thinking for a long time about how to put this into words, and it hasn’t been easy. Heck, I’m not even sure the following words will be the best way to explain it. Even so, they’re the only words I have right now, and I hope you’ll be able to understand all the same.

Maybe you remember that time in your childhood when you knew for certain that something you’d done or said was wrong. I’m talking about the immediate feeling afterwards that comes from observing the effect, such as seeing the other kid look sad or start crying. It’s the feeling that tells you that you messed up, and that it wasn’t right that something you did hurt the other person. For me, it’s always felt like a pit that opens in my chest, somewhere above my stomach. It appears instantly, and depending on the situation, the hole may or may not close. It’s the feeling that compels you to apologize, to try making up for what you did. It’s a learning moment, one in which we begin to understand what empathy is.

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Dreams Can Be a B

It’s Summer vacation, and I’m not used to being up this early. So, why am I?

Well, originally I thought it was going to be because I got excited last night/early this morning about maybe starting to clean my room today. I went over the Pinterest board I made especially for this task, full of neat little organizational tips and tricks to declutter my space.

Instead, I am up this early because dreams can be a real bitch sometimes.

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To Eulogize A Matriarch

Compared to the many decades of her life, as well as those spent by her family knowing and loving her, the two years I spent getting to know my boyfriend’s maternal grandmother seem to pale in comparison. But here’s the thing: She was a woman of stories, and to know her for any amount of time was to experience an adventure into the past with insight into the present.

If you’ve ever met a family member who has seemed to hold their family together, you already know a crucial part of her role within the family. She was such a loving human being, which may sound typical of grandmothers, but she was also capable of massive sass. She didn’t back down, and would express the sentiment in the right amount of words with the right amount of bite. She was certainly the orator of her own fate, and considering the how, where, and what of how she died only makes this all the more true.

She already suffered from a lung continuing to fill with fluid, as well as cirrhosis of the liver. However, it got worse—she was diagnosed with liver cancer, and it could not be treated because of her age and the effects of her previous conditions on her body. Apparently, the cancer usually kills within a month or two of diagnosis, in the state it was in at her diagnosis.

This was several months ago.

From the first moment I visited their house, my boyfriends’ grandparents made me feel welcome there. I walked through the door and felt like I was walking into the home of a relative, in that it felt so familiar and so unlike how I expected to feel. At this point in my life, both of my parents’ mothers had died, and I had gone through a low period when the one thing that kept going through my head was:¬†I don’t have a grandma anymore. The thing that had already happened to a fair few of my friends had finally happened to me, and I felt a gap I hadn’t known could exist. Not too long after I met my boyfriend’s grandmother, I felt like someone’s granddaughter again, and it felt so good to have someone in that role in my life again.

This woman was the picture of resilience. A gradual weight loss and age, as well as her ailments, did take their toll on her. However, from the way she spoke and made you feel when you sat across from her would give you pause. She could smile, laugh, sass, and carry on conversations with the best of the them, even besting this proverbial them when the need arose. This Southern Italian woman was true to herself no matter what was handed to her. No illness could rob her of such a personality.

The last time I saw her was December 26, 2016. My mother and I had driven down the night before to the hospital where she had been transferred, because earlier that day my boyfriend had texted to say she didn’t have more than a day or two to live. We told her stories that night, and she listened, even though she always wanted to provide her thoughts in return. We took turns holding her hand as she slept, and slept either in a chair near her or in the consult room next door. I honestly thought she was going to die at some point on Christmas Day, but she didn’t. And she didn’t die the next day, either. In fact, she was more awake and lucid the next morning. By the time my mother and I left the hospital around noon, she was in good spirits and wanted to go home.

She was relocated from the ICU, and even walked around with a physical therapist before being able to go home on December 28.

Two days later, I got the text that she passed away. I was sick with something I couldn’t classify as any specific illness, and I got the text message almost two hours after my boyfriend sent it because I had left my phone in my room. I had just gotten through using hand gestures and what was left of my voice to tell my parents that she was back at home and doing just fine.

It still hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I cried for a while after I found out, but part of me still expects to see her when I spend time with my boyfriend and his family after the funeral tomorrow. That same part of me anticipates sitting with her if the rest of the family gets too loud, or I want to hear one of her stories again. There is a nostalgia I feel even while writing this post that will either disappear after tomorrow, or will come back to bite me in a major way later on.

I’m unsure if I’ll be able to say anything at the funeral, or if it will resemble any of what I’ve typed here. If I am able to, however, I hope that whatever I do end up saying will do justice to her legacy and her memory.

The Things I Never Say Aloud

I always feel like I’m nearing the cusp of some great idea, something that could change the world—or at least one person’s world, and everything that means. I’m one door away from seeing what I was purposed for, but I’m always standing outside the door, fist raised to knock but as silent as my tongue remains.

After long hard days I still manage to find inspiration. But what’s the use of having it, if you have no one to share it with? Wrong. I have people—family, friends, my boyfriend, people I have yet to meet. But when there’s a colorful world in your head, and not enough words in your vocabulary to give them life in conversation, it gets lonely really quick.

Sometimes I feel like I’m at university just to be at university, that I’ve forsaken my true passions in an effort to conform. I know what I’m doing is important, and I’m nearly to the end, but not knowing how to apply what I’ve learned in terms of a future career is daunting, to say the least. There’s still music in my heart, waken up every so often to remind me of the joy I used to feel for the art. I still feel it to some extent, but the idea of restricting talent with the vice of academic study kills the dream quicker than it fuels it.

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It Finally Feels Like Autumn

I knew it felt like Autumn, at last, when I wore skinny jeans and a long-sleeved shirt on October 1st.

Today, when I added socks and a camisole to that ensemble for warmth, it really felt like Autumn.

The dark skies and short bursts of rain.

Wearing a scarf, the wind icy on my face as I sped along on my scooter.

The brief moments of sunlight cutting in, but again making way for the only shades of gray that don’t depress me.

Winter, like a timid toddler, hiding behind my legs as green leaves turned red, orange, and brown.

The day is shorter, but I have never felt more awake, more alive.

My blood runs with possibilities, my heart pumping them throughout my body, encouraging and energizing me.

It’s not the first season that comes to mind when I’m asked what my favorite season of, but I am now reminded how it remains my unspoken preference of the four. All of them have their virtues, but something about the chills and thrills of Autumn bring me to a state of peace.

Seeing this time of year, means we’ve gotten this far. We can only keep going forward.