What am I even doing?

Tonight I leave for a week long adventure to Daytona Beach. I will embark on an 18ish hour charter bus ride with roughly 85 high school students and 14 or so other leaders. I will forego sleep and alone time and comforts and routine. I will miss out on making money as I can’t work all week. I will be uncomfortable and stretched. Daytona Beach is slated to be hot and sunny and possibly have some thunderstorms which means most likely high humidity. I’m nervous because of my recent reaction to the sun. Will I break out in a rash? Will I be able to apply enough sunscreen to avoid burning myself? I will miss my bed and my husband and my dog. I won’t be able to make my daily frozen protein shake that’s like a coffee milkshake treat. I may not get to workout because no sleep and a pre determined schedule. I mean, really, why am I doing this???

I actually paid to attend this camp. I paid to not make money and to give up my life for a week. I wholeheartedly agreed to this journey. And I will do this four more times, every summer for the next four years.

Three years ago, I was asked to help lead sixth grade girls in my church’s youth program Boom. I felt honored and agreed. I wanted to give back. My son was involved in the youth program and I felt grateful for how it had impacted his life. In our church, you begin leading in sixth grade and as long as you’re willing, you stay with your group every year until they graduate (yes, seven potential years of youth group leadership)! And we’re not talking once a week events. This is daily texts, coffee dates, sleepovers (I’m almost 40 and sleepovers even with adults aren’t really my thing). This means investing money, time, emotion into the lives of teens who are not your own. This includes getting covered in cornstarch during a color war or allowing ice cream to be smeared all over your face during the annual biggest ice cream sundae event. This means being silly, eating baby food, dancing and playing games.

So again, why would I do this? I’m not a naturally selfless person. I’m fairly controlling and definitely an introvert. I get anxious when I anticipate large group settings. While I’m a well spoken person, I dislike all eyes on me. I have great leadership abilities but prefer solo projects.

So seriously, why would anyone do this????

I do this because I know that it matters. It’s important to give to others. My life is amazing even in the darkest moments. I’ve always been taken care of even when my bills aren’t paid and my outlook seems grim.

I show up because my girls matter. They are unique and amazing and beautiful humans and I have grown to love them with all my heart. They are talented and fun and intelligent and kind and I am honored they let me be a part of their life.

I sacrifice of myself because I know that I’m not the only person in this world and caring only about my comforts not only destroys my insides but the world around me suffers greatly.

I stay with my girls because I have watched my sons leaders care for him selflessly. I see how much he looks up to them, how they are some of his greatest friends and how he relies on them when he needs guidance. I have watched them give when it’s hard, drive him around, help him pay for things, mentor him and love him with all of their being.

But mostly, I commit to them because I serve a Creator who has strategically placed people in my life to love me, to listen to me, to lift me up and to pour into me. I see His hand in my life and want to honor Him with my life. I know that I gain so much more by giving than I ever will with the pursuit of personal increase.

And let’s just remove God from the equation for a moment because not everyone who reads this believes He even exists.

All of the reasons to serve or sacrifice are valid regardless of your belief in Jesus. Being a giving human matters. Putting yourself aside for a moment (or a week) is a good thing. Trying to understand where a teenager is coming from is important. They are our future you know? Telling them how much they matter, showing them that their voice deserves to be heard, that’s real. Walking beside them when they struggle and cheering them on through their greatness, it’s invaluable.

So tonight I will load myself on a bus and attempt to sleep (maybe). I will shift my mindset to that of a freshman in high school. I will be as goofy or vulnerable as my girls need. And I am certain I will come home tired but full of joy. I will long for my routine but miss the trip. I will grow and surely cry and create memories with my girls that will hopefully impact us all forever.

In a world full of clearly hurting people, where kids shoot up their school and the suicide rate is over 100 people per day, doesn’t it seem to just make sense to take time to be kind to someone?

Be a sprouted nut

I cannot stop crying lately. Sometimes it’s just tearing up and some sniffles. Other times it’s a full on downpour til that lump in my throat feels like it’s going to break free and overflow out of my body.

I used to hate crying, especially bawling with no specific reason. I believed I was weak in my emotion and that I was a “typical female” or PMS’ing or some other standard assumption concerning estrogen and tears. I tried as much as I could to refrain, to hide away, to hold everything in and to never really succumb to my feelings. No matter how valid they felt, how strong they were, how much it hurt to hide them, I was not going to be the person who cried in public.

Needless to say, I was not very good at that venture. My decision to pretend I had no sensitivities created the opposite result. I was overly emotional in everything and it was out of control. I would find myself frustrated with a co-worker and begin crying when expressing myself. If I had to engage in any sort of serious or vulnerable conversation, I would immediately breakdown and sob. I watched cookie commercials and began to gush, concocting depth and sorrow in Oreos. The out of control reactions only created a stronger aversion to feelings and a deeper disgust for crying. I felt more shame for my inability to control myself and more frustration within myself.

A few years ago, when some of my most intentional healing began, I listened to a talk by Brene Brown. It was all about feelings and how you cannot selectively acknowledge or block emotions. You either experience every sentiment, positive and negative, or you shut them all out. You cannot avoid sorrow and pain but fully feel joy. I could not expect to walk through all the amazing goodness in life if I wasn’t willing to give in to the grief and disappointment. If I continued to shame myself and try to circumvent the tough stuff, I was destined to be a confused and emotionally bankrupt human. Oof, that’s not at all what I was wanting to hear…..

Slowly, and with a lot of help from a counselor and some amazing friends to love me, I began to allow my tears to fall. I began to appreciate my anguish, the hard parts of life, the things that made me feel “bad” feelings. I started to seek out the parts of me I had tried to avoid, eagerly awaiting that crying until I almost throw up feeling. My deepest desire became to process so much that I became whole. And the crying for no reason started to dissipate. I suddenly began to understand a little bit of why I was crying. I began to connect to my insides, to recognize my heart and to honor what it had experienced. I fell in love with my ebullition. The cleansing of my shame which turned into pride for my life. I am not always 100% certain what is motivating my emotions but I began to welcome them with everything in me.

Once I cleared out so much old hurt and emotion, what Brene spoke about became reality. I had room for all the elation and goodness. When I stopped fighting my feelings, I was able to experience so much more, and man was it good.

Yesterday I woke up with a full day ahead of me. My son graduated high school two weeks ago and today was his graduation party. My mom flew in from Georgia to celebrate and we had so many tasks to accomplish before 1pm. As my mom and I prepped food, I began to play a song for her that my son wrote and recorded. I began to cry. I’ve heard the song before, multiple times. In fact, any performance Matthew has done, I’ve certainly replayed it more times than I’d like to admit. But I begin to cry every time because I feel proud of him. I see hope for his future. I am relieved that maybe I did something right with him. I am honored to be his mom. I feel inspired by his talents. That crying was so good.

An hour later, I had to run to CVS to pick up photos for a picture collage. You know the ones people make for graduation, full of every adorable and embarrassing picture of the graduate? I decided to peruse the card aisle in hopes of finding something to write in for my graduate. Every card I read made my eyes swell. New baby cards, congratulations, with sympathy, blank cards with adorable puppies on the cover. You name it, I could relate to it, empathize with it, connect to it because I’m emotional and I allow myself to feel ALL THE FEELINGS.

And as I taped the pictures together to create my very own pic-collage, those dang eyes began to drip a little. Collecting moments over the past eighteen years and displaying them all on three pieces of poster board, I remembered so many days as a mother. I felt a myriad of emotions and it was ok. I embraced my feelings and then let them subside. I was allowed to process being sad that he has grown up, joy that he is such an amazing human, grief that he is transitioning into a new chapter in life.

The party was a full day of friends at the pool and hanging out at the house. It was hectic and expensive and I was running around navigating details non stop. It was stressful at times, wondering if I prepared enough food, wanting to display things perfectly, ensuring our guests were happy. It was ok to experience those small tinges of anxiety and pressure. It didn’t overwhelm me or take over the day because I was not a pot boiling over with years of old struggles. And in the midst of all of that, I was on the verge of tears but not because of the possible negative outcomes. I was caught up in the awe of our life, the gratitude for so many friends that love us, the kindness of our family members and the pure joy on my sons face as he felt loved and celebrated. I was able to be balanced and sane and experience life in all its fullness. Nothing was dulled, short changed or less than.

As I lay in my bed, reflecting on the day, the past 18 years of Matthews life, my life, I am overcome with tears. As I am writing and editing this blog, I am intermittently crying. I am just constantly crying and I love it.

I pray your day is full of acceptance of your feelings. That you know the value of experiencing sorrow and in turn, receive the rewards that come from exultation. I encourage anyone who is attempting to remove their emotions, to hug them tightly, to soak in them until something new emerges. I envision almonds soaking in water overnight so that the goodness inside can sprout up. That process is my hope for anyone who has a hardened heart. The most digestible nuts are the ones that have been soaked overnight, they shed their outer layer and the true goodness inside is revealed. So go out friend! Be a sprouted nut!

Steroids and ownership

My grandparents are from Italy and Venezuela (maybe Argentina but I’m pretty sure Venezuela). My brother is very dark skinned and although I’m kinda olive toned, I’ve NEVER had an issue with sunburns or not tanning nicely. I rarely lather on sunscreen, I never wear sun hats and I have yet to experience sun poisoning.

On Wednesday, the high was mid 70’s and the sun was out but mixed with clouds. I invited two friends over for some poolside hangs and was so elated to just relax and have some downtime and enjoy the vitamin D therapy. We sat around for maybe an hour before we were warm enough to embrace the barely tolerable, ice cold pool water. Once in the pool, after our squealing and whining subsided, we chatted for another 30 minutes or so. Our afternoon of fun was over, we had things to do and adult life to return to.

I noticed a severe burn line form my bathing suit and sent a text to my friends stating, “don’t worry, it will turn to tan by tomorrow.” Confident in my statement because I had never seen a burn on me that didn’t turn to tan and I was sure my 90 minute sun exposure wasn’t enough to kill me.

The next day, my burn was still evident, no brown tones had set in, my shoulders were tender and my chin felt burnt. I’m not talking about hot, but actually burnt. I felt perplexed but continued to believe (with slightly less confidence) in the tan tones coming shortly. I began applying home remedies of lavender and oils and lotions and creams in an attempt to coerce my skin into tanning. At minimum, I was hoping to alleviate the redness and bumps that were beginning to form.

Enter Saturday night…. I woke up to itching skin, bumps all over my chest, neck, face. I wanted to rip my skin off. I was placing ice packs on myself. My face had a similarity to an orange peel and my chest was on fire. I couldn’t sleep (which is somewhat a regular occurrence these days) and began scouring the internet for sunburn rash websites.

I found myself wondering what had happened? My skin had never been so unpredictable. Was I now so sensitive to the sun that I couldn’t adventure without sunscreen? I mean, maybe I’m dumb for even thinking that but when you experience minimal to no issues for 38 years, it’s definitely confusing to suddenly have your body react in a totally opposing manner.

I ended up being put on steroids to reduce the inflammation and rash and had to spend Memorial Day hiding out from the terrors of UVA/UVB rays. I’m bathing in aloe and drinking water obsessively. I’m itchy and red and irritated but most of all, I’m aggravated with myself. Why did I care so much about wanting a tan? Why did I ignore everything and person that suggests sunscreen is important?

All of this got me thinking back to my ankle and how I knew my right ankle was weaker before I broke it. I had right knee surgery 11 years ago and have had trouble activating my glute on the right side for a little while now. My right leg has been my less stable, weaker side ever since my surgery in 2007. I have known this and seen it as a problem anytime I do single leg exercises. I started seeing a therapist for my right knee maybe six months before I broke my ankle. I was doing my therapy exercises but pretty lazily, not with a huge level of commitment.

After breaking my ankle, I HAVE TO FIX MY RIGHT LEG ISSUES. If I don’t activate my butt and track my knee/quad correctly, my ankle hurts where my plate is. Maybe this is too technical talk but the point is, I could’ve been proactive and possibly fixed this issue a long time ago and maybe, just maybe, avoided an ankle breaking. So why didn’t I? Why was I not fully committed to proactive care of myself? Why did I not take it seriously? I see this all too often with my clients also, they come in with an ache or pain and we discuss a protocol for fixing the issue yet the true motivation for change usually doesn’t come until they’re desperate and non functional.

I have found myself full of gratitude for these forced behavior changes even though they come with some extreme discomfort. I’d prefer to learn from these experiences and become better at taking care of myself BEFORE I’m broken and itching and on medication or in the hospital. Yes, it would be nice if I could just magically be healed or if I could function better without any effort but the line says, “get up, pick up your mat and walk!” There’s an active part involved in our healing. I am to partner with my God whether that be in prayer and faith or in tangible behaviors like putting on sunscreen and doing physical therapy exercises. Whatever it is, whatever it looks like, I play a part, or it’s better if I participate.

So tonight, I am grateful for my sunburned rash and itching skin and my butt that doesn’t fire well because they are going to be my motivation and reminder anytime I want to be lazy or irresponsible. And any other thing I want to accomplish in my life, will be better because I will know that I ALWAYS have a choice to make smart decisions and I am never truly a victim to circumstances. I challenge anyone reading this to trace backwards something in their life and find the areas that could be improved and just maybe, see how life is trying to discipline you to be the best version of yourself. And then be grateful for those broken bones and failed attempts because they are way more of an asset than liability. ❤️

Oh, and here’s just a magical picture of my dog playing in the snow.

Insomnia

I don’t really have insomnia….. I don’t think. It’s 3:45am EST. I’ve been awake for 45ish minutes. I find myself doing this more often than not lately. I go to bed early (10:30pm) with intentions of sleeping eight hours and instead, I’m wide awake five hours later.

My immediate reaction is unfortunately to scroll the internet. I catch up on all social media outlets, double tap everything, read the news headlines, emails, check my eBay sales, bank account and then do it again. Sometimes I find myself on amazon or Facebook marketplace and a purchase is made (it’s awful and scary really).

When I have finally exhausted every possible mindless exchange, I sit. I stare into the darkness of my room. I listen to the sound of my husbands heavy breathing. The blue light of the TV power button distracts me for a bit. I get lost in the buzz of the fan we keep on. And I wonder if I’m awake for some real reason. Is something on my mind? Did I not eat enough food? Am I thirsty? Why do I have to use the restroom? Do I have diabetes (I know that ones not true but still, my mind goes to weird places).

With all of the trauma from my broken ankle and the pain my nervous system endured, is there something unsettled in me? Did something shift when that car drove through the house I was sleeping in and is my body still on high alert? Is there something on my mind that I need to wrestle with and resolve? Is my God trying to speak to me and I’m too busy trolling Instagram to hear Him?

Sometimes I imagine I actually get out of bed, take my dog for a midnight stroll and watch the sunrise. That there’s something I’m supposed to be experiencing in this timeframe when most of the city is asleep. That never happens. I never get dressed. I don’t go outside. Sometimes I feel an urging to just pray for hours but I haven’t found myself doing that either. And then I think about what would happen if I found the motivation to go outside or to drop to my knees. What possible revelation is waiting for me. I envision a holy interaction that changes my life. An encounter with God and the earth, that gives me clarity and insight into my whole existence. Yet I’m still in bed, blogging.

Why is it sometimes we feel the urge to do what we believe might be the life changing action we’ve been desiring yet we lay in bed and do nothing? I keep thinking if I just lay here a bit longer, my eyes will flutter and I will begin to sleep again yet I know I’m not tired. Why avoid destiny or what I perceive as a portion of my destiny? I mean, maybe I’m overthinking this and my brain isn’t working well because of the interruptions in my sleep OR maybe there is some discovery to be received and I’m being tricked into dismissing it.

So I’m gonna sit in this silence, and for the first time, ask for what I’m supposed to receive and just see what happens. If you wake up and the world is different, #yourewelcome.

To my son Matthew

Tomorrow you will graduate high school. You will toss your cap in the air and an era of youth will end. You will be an adult, entering a new phase of life, one full of greater responsibility and expectation. The pressures of growing up, the stress of taking care of yourself, the possible anxiety of making life decisions will all creep in. It may be scary. It will be challenging.

But know this: you are capable. You are equipped to handle much more than you know. You were designed for greatness and this world is a better place because you exist. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like a failure because we enter unknown territory and we feel ill prepared but do not give into that fear. Every moment of uncertainty is an opportunity to get better, grow stronger, gain wisdom and become a more complete and amazing version of ourselves.

When you were born, my life changed. The firstborn child among the five siblings in my family and the first grandchild. Everyone traveled to visit and dote on you. Our family began to grow closer with a new baby at the center of it all. You had no idea how much you mattered and I imagine, at times, you still do not understand the magnitude of your worth.

As you’ve grown, you’ve continued to affect our family, my life and the lives of those you encounter. You have a heart that loves so fiercely and cares so deeply that at times, you forget yourself in order to pour into others. When you enter a space, you bring pure joy with you. As someone recently told me, “you have a light inside you that makes others happy.” It’s true, there is something contagious and wonderful about being around you. It’s undeniable.

Watching you grow has been the single greatest experience of my life. You’re more amazing than any mountain I’ve climbed, any sunset I’ve seen and any adventure I have yet to embark on. You have taught me sacrificial and unconditional love. In raising you, I have learned to let go, to trust outcomes, to accept mistakes and to laugh at myself.

I will always smile when I think about us singing songs and being silly during car rides. I love when you practice your music around me and feel grateful you filled my life with the beauty of your talents. Thank you for reminding me to be kind to myself and for teaching me about what really matters in life.

I pray that I have instilled within you strength to endure the tough times. I pray I have modeled love and kindness so that you never forget how to treat others. I hope you can always turn to me for advice and know that I will be here, without judgement, to share whatever wisdom I may have. Thank you for being who you are. I love you more than I knew I could love someone and am honored to be your mom.

Sunday

Yesterday was Sunday.

It also was Mother’s Day.

I am a mom. I’ve been one for 18 years now.

The thing about yesterday, Mother’s Day, is that I usually find myself particularly disappointed and dejected inside. It’s the same with Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and even Sweetest Day (which is honestly not a real holiday). I have some crazy expectation in my mind, breakfast in bed, flowers, romance, surprises, things you see in a movie. I see people’s lives on social media and it makes me believe that those days mean more because they include niceties. I have spent a lot of years believing that without those things, I wasn’t as important, maybe I wasn’t a worthy mom or person, maybe I wasn’t living up to the role of wife, friend, girlfriend, mother etc.

I also know a lot of people who find those days to be just as challenging; friends who can’t have children, whose mothers have passed away, who don’t have a significant other or who have been betrayed by their lover. These holidays, the cards, the decorations, the date night activities, the excitement, really can be nothing more than a build up to sadness and feeling alone or undeserving.

Now I’m not saying these holidays are junk OR that honoring others is a negative trait. I love celebrating people. I cry over cards at the grocery store and envision the emotion and sentiment being shared with a person I care for. I get excited for Christmas tree decorating and cut out cookies and I certainly enjoy a beautiful dinner and romance.

But when my whole day, my whole existence, my emotions are so tied to these grandiose displays of affection, I am setting myself up for hurt. Sometimes I think that no amount of gifts or attention would satisfy the day I can create in my mind. Who can compare to Ryan Gosling in the Notebook? That’s just not real life, at least not all the time (in fact probably not most of the time).

Relationships are tough. Pleasing someone else, considering someone else, selflessness, that’s really difficult. It’s not in our nature to think about others before ourselves. I’m not great at it and I’ve been intentionally working on it for at least five years.

Let me take a quick detour to clarify a few things: my husband is AMAZING. He’s patient and kind and loving and has the biggest heart. He’s talented and I am impressed by him and his artistic abilities every day. He is creative beyond what I can comprehend and is a perfectionist when it comes to his craft. He would die for me in a heartbeat. He cares about making me happy and he works hard to speak my love language. My son is also an unbelievable human. He is empathetic and generous and loves me with all his heart. When he sings, something stirs inside my core. Excitement pours out of his body when he anticipates something and he gives really great hugs. He’s genuine and respectful and makes this world a better place just by existing.

Now that I cleared that up, let’s get back to Mother’s Day….. nothing special happened. No card from anyone, no flowers, no surprises and IT WAS OK! In fact, it was totally fine. It was just Sunday after all. I didn’t feel sad. I actually told myself, “you’re a really amazing mom and this day doesn’t make you more of a mom”. In years past, I’ve cried, a lot. I’ve felt unimportant and angry. I’ve wanted something (I don’t even know what) to validate me. I compared my day to Instagram stories and Facebook posts and felt almost ashamed of the normalcy that ensued on all those Sundays in May.

Just because my husband and son aren’t great at proactive gift giving and surprises, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate me. They show me how much they value me in so many other ways throughout the year. It almost becomes unfair to forget all of those moments and base everything on those 24 hours labeled as a holiday for moms, or lovers or Jesus (Christmas is definitely not about me or gifts so let’s get that off the table right now).

In general, the thought process of high expectations in every situation, becomes dangerous. People will always let us down. Things won’t always be 100% perfect and just how we choose for them to be. Life isn’t a movie or a post online. But this year, my feelings were totally disconnected from that thinking and I was able to celebrate myself. I applauded myself, did things I enjoyed and never felt one twinge of resentment or discontentment. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of more amazing days with less focus on what someone is doing to celebrate me and more connection with how I can be my own best cheerleader.

Georgia

Tomorrow morning I am ending a five day trip to my hometown of Georgia. I came home to surprise my younger sister for her graduation party. It just so happened to be my nephews birthday so I got to also celebrate him. I moved away when I was 18 (20 years ago). It was actually more like I ran away as fast as I could and never looked back.

For the past 20 years it’s always been bittersweet to come home. I don’t have many good memories here. This state isn’t full of all my old friends. In fact, there’s only one person from school I still keep in contact with. At times, being home has been more stress and pain than it seemed worth.

Coming from a large family, it’s hard to always get along. I am one of five children and we are all married and four of us have children. Once we all had spouses and children of our own, our lives became even harder to intertwine. We now had to accommodate our significant others, our busy kids schedules and then maybe find time to spend with our siblings and parents. Sometimes our spouses didn’t like our siblings. Sometimes we had old issues from childhood that got in the way of us being kind to each other. Whatever is was, it has made family time challenging to say the least.

Living in Ohio, I think it’s been easy to disconnect emotionally and physically. Absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder. It made it easier and easier to convince myself that I just didn’t care. Missing birthdays and special events didn’t feel sad because I had let the hard parts of family become more powerful than blood. It didn’t hurt to be away from my brothers or sister or nieces and nephews. The distance wasn’t even a thought really.

Maybe it’s just getting older or maybe wounds have begun to heal or somewhere in between but this trip, this was important. This felt necessary. I wanted to show up for my sister. I wanted her to deeply feel my love and support for her. Even though we haven’t gotten along all our lives and as adults, we haven’t been very close that often, me showing up wasn’t optional. I don’t know why I decided this. What changed inside of me? I do know I am beyond elated with my decision.

When I walked in her house to surprise her, she was overcome with emotion. She began to cry and we hugged one of those embraces that you don’t ever want to let go from. We spent the day together with family and friends celebrating her. We didn’t fight. There wasn’t a moment of tension or animosity or discontent. We were two sisters, laughing and being bound together. I was able to share kind and genuine words in a card. I was able to show her in action just how much she means to me. And in that day, in this trip, I felt like years of struggling subsided. We were friends again. We were like we once were as children sharing a bedroom, staying up late and giggling with each other. We remembered why we love each other so much.

Then came a lunch with my sister in law and mother. Just that sentence can be tough for some families. Meshing so many different personalities can feel impossible. Attempts to be kind can fail miserably and tension can create years of avoidance and awkwardness. But today, today was perfect. Lunch was full of joy and common ground. Three woman in three different stages of life, bound together by blood and marriage, able to somehow put aside fears and insecurities and opinions to just enjoy each other, lift each other up and love one another. And somehow, in that meal, the beginning of healing began. The value of family was renewed. The desire to continue to work on things was recharged. And again, I was grateful for showing up.

Growing up in Georgia was awful in many ways. I’ve referenced some things previously and am sure I will explain so much more as my blog continues. I don’t have fond memories. I don’t often leave feeling sad and anticipating my next visit. This is the first time I’ve really had a heaviness within me. I don’t want to miss these moments. I feel so connected and joyful and I don’t want it to stop.

I’ve always felt like other families were somehow better or closer than mine. That mine was so screwed up and I almost wanted to just find replacements. That’s not been a constant feeling but it’s been a pretty overwhelming one at times. I am so glad that feeling is fading and being replaced by what I can only imagine will continue to grow into more love, more joy and more closeness.

In life it can be a simple switch turned on and off when it comes to friendships and I’ve always felt that it was that way with family. Once I’d felt hurt and betrayed enough, I didn’t have to open my heart to whatever or whoever the cause was. I could pretend the person didn’t exist and even imagine they never existed. I could harden my heart to the point that I truly believed I was happier without my brother or sister. What I’ve come to find is that isn’t the case. I craved connection from my family so much and felt so discouraged and hurt at times that I decided to protect myself by shutting them out and shutting myself down. Maybe everyone doesn’t desire closeness with their family. Maybe it’s a fantasy to believe that old scars can be healed and forgiven. I choose to hope in the opposite and open myself back up because one trip like this is way better than all those years of indifference.