Love and Blueberries

While on my lunch break today, I was carefully inspecting blueberries before putting them in my yogurt. For some reason love popped into my head. Maybe it was due to the special care I was giving each blueberry…I really don’t know.

I was 13 when I experienced my first “I love you”. I’ll never forget that boy. There he was asking me to dance at our 8th grade graduation. And then he starts crying. This boy, who showed no previous interest in me, shed tears while saying he loved me. What does a 13 year old girl do with that? I’ll tell you what I did…I made fun of him to all my friends. I know, how awful. But like I said before, I learned from a young age that love isn’t something you guarantee someone unless you know it’s real.

Before that night, I remember me and my friends discussing for hours about the boys who didn’t like us. I’m talking about those crushes that you just can’t shake. One of my friends told me once, “Erika, when you get to high school every guy in that building will be after you.”

Welp. Let me tell you. The whole senior guy chasing the freshman girl scenario was very much real in my story. HAHA imagine how my dad took that one…anyways. I wasn’t used to a guy that I mutually liked giving me so much attention. I fell pretty hard. He appreciated my athletic abilities on the track and we shared some deep discussions about depression. He didn’t get my first “I love you”. I almost just told you guys a lie but I had to erase it. I did tell that boy that I loved him…and then pretended that I meant to send it to my grandma. How embarrassing. He went to college that August…never heard from him again.

Now that you’re caught up on my first “I love you”s let’s move forward. In the next six years I heard a lot more “I love you”s and even gave a couple back. Onto the summer before senior year of college…

There was a guy. We kept in touch for probably the first part of the summer and then nothing. We moved back in August for senior year and it was as if nothing had changed. He knew I liked him. And you know what he did about it? Messed with my emotions the same way we all have done to our crushes at least once. How crazy it is to see the power we can hold over someone else. Almost invigorating right? After he dragged me along far enough he dropped me off a 100ft. cliff. Hard. I mean one day here the next day gone type of drop. But this “I love you” that I felt was different. It felt mature. Like I knew what I wanted. That I had life figured out. I could lie to you all and say I’m fine…but why else would sorting blueberries make me think of love? Or the sound of cicadas almost make me cry? The dude has invaded my mind.

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I could tell you that love stinks. But let’s be real. Love is great. I mean it’s even more amazing when it’s reciprocated but eh. The problem is that people get all these funky ideas about what love is. Someone says love and the other person immediately thinks of babies and weddings. But what if we thought of it this way:

Love is being intrigued. It’s the thirst for wanting to know someone more. Attraction to their heart and soul..okay maybe their hair too but that’s only a plus. After years of trying to figure out love I learned that all I knew how to do was run. Run because I had a false idea of what those people meant by “I love you”. Now that I’ve had some time to ponder it…I don’t believe that 13 year old boy wanted to marry me. He was intrigued. Something about me caught his eye. Obviously as time goes on and we age, the things we are intrigued with become more complex. The 13 year old was intrigued because well, he was 13…hormones, man.

But my latest “I love you”, that I never got to say, was because I was deeply intrigued. Intrigued by his individuality and the big heart that he tried so hard to hide. I longed to know everything about him. “I love you” was the biggest compliment that I had to offer. Does that change since I was thrown into the wind like a crumbled piece of paper? Yeah, duh. But the messed up part about the heart is that the intriguing sensation doesn’t leave. No matter how much the mind throws fact after fact…the heart will make every excuse to not give up.

I know, you guys are thinking…okay? What did I get from that?

Stop and think about your first “I love you”s. Think about every time someone has told you they loved you. And every time you told someone you loved them. Now think of those words as if they were the biggest compliment you could ever have received. I’m talking more than just romantic relationships now. Friends, family, mentors, coaches…the list goes on. Those “I love you”s that everyone seems to throw around….those are the BIGGEST compliments that could ever be given. Not only should we use them wisely, but we should also accept them a lot more caringly than we have in the past.

Much love, from my fortress. ❤

Wake Up

Close your eyes. Do you hear that? No. Beyond all the wants of the world.

Your chest rising and falling in collaboration with every heartbeat. The breeze shaking the earth around you.

Birds calling to the heavens – we’re so far from where we started. 

Turn the power off. Let the natural energy of your soul kick in. Let the current flow through your veins and wake you up.

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You’re the bird. Your wings flapping to create the winds that halt the universe. You’re so small yet so powerful.

When will you allow yourself to hear the heavens answering back? Reminding you that this is your masterpiece.

Me, Myself, and Honesty

Disclaimer: if you continue reading this you are not allowed to feel sorry for me. This is the past and I’m only telling you so you can understand my present. My life is beyond what you are about to read.

My entire life I have strived to be something. I say something because I was never given the right word to put in there. I don’t remember getting much attention as a kid. But the mind has a way of amplifying the negative…so keep that in mind as you read the rest of this. My memory doesn’t leave me with many memories of the past. But here’s a couple.

  1. Being told that I was at fault for my parents fighting.
  2. Living with my grandparents for a year while my parents did God knows what.
  3. Being taken away to some shelter for women and children.
  4. My parents threatening suicide.
  5. My parents apologizing and getting back together.
  6. My mom being pulled out of my grandma’s house by her hair.
  7. Bathing with melted snow because we didn’t have water.
  8. Staring at the hole my body made in the drywall of the dining room
  9. Getting called “stupid b****”, “dumb”, “smart ass”, “c***”
  10. Screaming “shut up” while hearing crashes and screaming coming from the living room.

I could go on but I won’t. How about a list of things I don’t remember…

  1. My mom telling me what kind of guy I should hope for in my future.
  2. My dad showing me how a guy should treat me.
  3. Being told the importance of education.

Again, I’m sure I could go on but you get it. I said all that to get to the important stuff. I never had the support that I thought I needed. And maybe it was because I was pushing for that support that I did everything in my power to be the best. I kept straight A’s from kindergarten to 12th grade. I started making my own money at 10 or 11. I played multiple sports.  I graduated high school. I went to college. I read. I learned everything I could. I worked 4-5 jobs at a time and put myself through college. And in May I graduated. Did it solve any of my issues? No.

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I always wanted recognition. But I never dwelled on it. What I gained from my journey was a sense of loneliness and trust in only myself. I decided that I was the only person in my life who hadn’t let me down yet. Afterall, I only made it to where I am because of me…Right? Wrong. I told you in the beginning. The mind has a way of amplifying the negative to the point that you can no longer see the positive. I am where I am because of my circumstances. My family. And most importantly my parents.

Here’s what my parents taught me:

  1. How to love unconditionally…yeah I still struggle with that one.
  2. Perseverance – you cannot let your addictions keep their hold on you, break free.
  3. To be grateful – I know what it is like at rock bottom, and I will never choose to go there.
  4. How to pray
  5. Forgiveness
  6. What NOT to do in a relationship
  7. Honesty – because I have seen what lying gets you.
  8. How to laugh
  9. Family is all you have at the end of the day.
  10. It is okay to need help.

And you bet there are a LOT more lessons that I could share. The point is. I always told myself that it was me against the world. It caused me to close up inside myself and hate everything. It’s been about a year or so since I’ve realized that I was one of my biggest enemies. I became so caught up in this “woe is me” pity party that the big picture slipped away. If I had to say what the number one compliment I receive from older people is, it would be something like this: “You are such a strong-minded individual who has her head on straight. Your parents raised you right.” That’s what people see. They don’t know my story (I’m a pretty private person, so this will be a surprise to most.) But that’s who I am to the world. How did I get there? By the two individuals who showed me what hell was before I ever pictured heaven.

I love my Mom and Dad. And I thank God that they have grown both individually and together over the years. And if I had the chance to rewrite my story I wouldn’t dare pick up a pen.

Look beyond the few negatives and you’ll be amazed at what you find.

Much love from my fortress. ❤

 

Don’t Forget to Pause

I’m driving down the road singing Avril Lavigne at the top of my lungs. One of my best friends next to me. Windows down with my arm outstretched catching the night air. And I pause. Any struggles up to this point have been washed away. This is what it feels like to be alive. No, not merely living. But to be truly alive.

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This night is freedom. Freedom from tear filled nights and broken hearts. (Okay, so maybe I was feeling a little too liberated. But there is nothing like joining in with a whole theater full of people yell-singing “WHEN YOU SEE MY FACE, HOPE IT GIVES YOU HELL!” while picturing the guy who broke your heart standing right in front of you). Anyways! In this moment of reflection I look to my right. There sits my friend Taylor doing her weird dance move that consists of a counter-clockwise rotation of just her left shoulder. But I don’t just see her. I see every friend that I’ve ever had up to this point. The ones that I have laughed with, sat crumpled on the floor and cried with, and the ones that I’ve shared the worst arguments with. Everyone that has made me what I am.

I’m talking about the ones still around and the ones that walked away with a knife sticking out of my back. Because I’m a firm believer that you can’t pick and choose what defines you. If that were the case, we would all be spoiled brats with no desire to read deep blog posts.

But in this moment as the radio projects Avril’s words, “you fall and you crawl and you break and you take what you get and you turn it into”…I am reminded that all of my struggles are significant. Without my deepest struggles, I wouldn’t have the ability to appreciate simple nights such as this one.

Moments of reflection are so important. Because of them, I can honestly say that I do not hate anyone that has left me throughout my journey. Instead, I appreciate all that those people have contributed to my life and pray that they find the same clarity through theirs.

So I encourage you to go out and enjoy life. But don’t forget to stop and pause not only during the bad times but also the good.

P.S. – That doesn’t mean you and your friends have to stop the occasionally intense, emotional jam ‘seshes’ full of songs about the guys who broke your hearts. Because I don’t know about you all, but I classify that as therapy.

Exposed

Every night I fall asleep with someone new. They whisper sweet words in my ear and let me into their deepest thoughts. They steal the reins and drive me to dreams I could never fathom. Introduced to freshness with every moon. 

They never leave me in the silent night. And as the sun peeks over the horizon they walk slowly away. But they leave me so full that I’m never alone. The streets are quiet before the new one slips under the covers.

I am not ashamed. No, my bed isn’t filled. The only use of my second pillow is to hold close. The somebody is never “nobody”. It’s Me. My mind growing, energized like solar panels on a sunny summer day. Every day bringing a new story. Pruning the dead roses so new life can emerge.

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My soul becoming transparent by the shadows of the night. I no longer NEED more. I know I have something new to show myself. When the noise quiets my chest plays a song so beautiful that my body falls numb. It grabs my face and shows me that I am enough. Before I know it, the birds chirp and the covers are pulled back.

But I happily say goodbye. For a new song will be played tonight. 

 

Story of a Soloist

Anyone have a thesaurus…or at least the app? If not you should get one, they’re amazing! Okay, now lookup the word ‘alone’. Abandoned, friendless, hermit, lonely, deserted…are we seeing the pattern? Being alone shouldn’t be seen as an issue. I can CHOOSE to be alone without being lonely!

Have you ever went to a restaurant or movie theater on your own? Traveled? Well I have. Especially in the past three months. Graduating college and taking on the world alone has really created a new way of life. I’m starting to understand the “independent woman” claim I’ve been spouting for years. And the number one lesson I’ve learned thus far is that I was not nearly as independent as I had thought.

Humans are social beings. It is such a habit for us to be in constant company of one another that we don’t know what to do when we are alone. Thank goodness for technology right?! Now whenever faced with that awkward situation of aloneness we just whip out our handy-dandy phones and block out the world. Well let me tell you what you’re missing.

Being in public alone grants the perfect time for uninterrupted observations. It is so interesting to watch how people interact with one another. More so, you can witness other’s reactions to you being alone. In case you’re wondering, society doesn’t seem to like it when a twenty-something woman sits by herself in the local chinese restaurant.

The awesome part about “alone” experiences is that you never know what will happen. During my trip to New York City last month I had the chance to fly next to a pretty cool guy from Chicago. It’s always funny how situations unfold, though. As the guy sat down he automatically pulled out his headphones. He plugged them into his phone, put up his hood and leaned back in his seat. I thought, whelp so much for an interesting flight. However, as we were getting closer to takeoff I noticed he seemed a little fidgety (I noticed because I wasn’t stuck in the screen of my phone). We then shared a laugh about a crying baby in front of us and that’s all it took to start a conversation. Come to find out it was his first time flying.

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The Chicago skyline.

In that short hour and a half two strangers shared fear, anxiety, joy, and humility. Without even knowing each other’s names! There is probably a one in bazillion chance we will ever cross paths again. But in that moment we were all we had. How awesome is that to think about? Every place that we go, we have endless opportunities to grow through each other.

I used to hate going out in public alone. The problem is that it is impossible to be alone in public. There are always other people. Feeling alone in public is one of the habits that we can’t seem to break. And no, I’m not saying that you can go out in public and expect to fill a void in yourself. I know that dance, trust me. We are talking surface level right now. But want to know what happens once you scrape the surface with a stranger?

Well Aiden, the boy on the plane, was flying for the first time. Where was he going? England. This guy was flying for the first time ever, alone, all the way to England. Surface level information. The deeper effects? Aiden will never know that I was freaking out about traveling to NYC alone. But hearing his story and seeing his confidence gave me confidence. Confidence that I wouldn’t have gained without sharing a simple laugh with a stranger.

If I have learned anything in this short three months it is this: I might be a soloist in this thing called life. But at no point should my aloneness be mistaken for abandonment or loneliness. I am comfortable with ME. And once I became comfortable with myself, I started to see all the beauty that is hidden in the minute details of this world.

Don’t be afraid to get lost in yourself.

Why a Fortress?

When you look up the definition of fortress you get a couple of meanings, but they convey the same idea. The first one you read is, “a military stronghold, especially a strongly fortified town fit for a large garrison.” And the second…”a heavily protected and impenetrable building.” So we get the idea, a fortress is strong and not easily entered. Now go one step further. We assume that impenetrable buildings have exits. Afterall, how does the royal court leave their castle? But what about the prisoners?

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From Her Fortress was created to show that other side. Every day we build walls to keep others out. Perhaps it was that angry, negative man at the grocery store. The homeless man on the corner. Every time we come across something we don’t want to be a part of we turn our backs and build a wall; a bias. Don’t get me wrong. Walls can be good. They make us…well us.

But after building so many walls, we create more than an impenetrable, safe structure. We grow a prison. Our minds become so confined within the biases and set routines of everyday life that we can no longer find those convenient exits. But I have found mine. And I am ready to share from within my fortress.