Directionless

There was a time where I had this amazing blueprint of how my life would go.

I would move away from home, go to college, and finish with a degree in Forensic Psychology. I wanted to be Clarice from Silence of the Lambs. During this time that I would be making something out of myself, I would casually meet the man of my dreams. We would fall madly in love with one another, get married, and start a life together. Sprinkle a little travel time on top of that and there was my perfect life… and this was all to be done before the age of 26.

This is when I had some direction in life and somewhere along the road I veered off the beaten path I had cleared off for myself. I one day realized that this direction I was headed in was not a true blue print of what I wanted my own life to be. It was starting to seem more like the life that I knew society and its norms needed me to be. I slowly became aware that this was going to be a life that was chosen for me simply because I felt like it was what I had to do to please the world.

I’m not more than halfway through my first year of being in my 30’s. I have no kids, no husband, and never graduated from college. I haven’t decided to settle yet when it comes to the family life. I refuse to settle down with just anyone in order  to please everyone else. After deciding that forensic psychology, although very interesting, would just in the long run ruin my cheery personality, I quit what I was studying, walking away from an institution that I felt no longer was serving me. Removing the goal from the sacrifice and what are you left with? Nothing other than a lot of sacrificing. Not knowing what I truly wanted to do when it came to furthering my education I decided against finishing the last two years I had left to go. I felt that it was pointless to add to a debt for a mere sheet of paper that would do me no good unless it would have been put to use, and it wouldn’t have been.

So here I am, no kids to keep me busy. No husband to keep me grounded. No career to keep me focused. Do I fear where I am in life? Not one bit. The way I see it, the world is my oyster and at this point in time anything is truly possible. I compare my state of being now to what I was back then when I had some direction and the difference is night and day. The stress level is low and happiness is abundant. I am hardly every cranky anymore, and even though I may question more where I may be in three years, it is not a question that scares me, instead it fills me with excitement.

I am happy to be living, and even though life may not be going according to plan, I am totally alright with that. For me, happiness, much like the wind, flows freely into my life, directionless.

You Know, Sometimes….

Life can really throw you for a loop.

Sometimes “better late than never” is just a little too late. Sometimes it’s brighter before a wicked storm. Sometimes words don’t just bounce off of me and stick to you. Sometimes the grass truly is greener on the other side and the Universe is allowing for you to take a little look.

Sometimes it’s hard to really look at the bigger picture. Sometimes we forget that things that mean more to us, will be hard to obtain, but not impossible. Sometimes it is hard to maintain a cheery disposition, especially when things are tasting a little sour.

Sometimes it is totally Ok to not be Ok. Sometimes is not most times and all we need is a little reminder, that although complicated and tough, life is always good.

An Unlocked Memory

I was watching the Skeleton Key alone in my room the other day.The memory that flooded back went a little something like this:

………The fuzzy, anorexic looking, eight-legged critter stood out against the rusty blue metallic mailbox. It seems as though it had been awaiting my arrival. Almost as if it knew that I would be dilly-dallying down that dirt road at that exact moment on that mid-morning day in July. The way I felt that very second, and as soon as the thought of a spider waiting “for my arrival” crept into my mind, I should have taken those as clear warning signs that the day wasn’t going to be an average one.

Standing off to the side of the random driveway, I stared at the spider, hoping to be making it uneasy with my gaze, when a tall woman with silky black skin walked out onto the porch. She planted herself firmly right above the first step, with both arms crossed across her chest.

“What chu’ want girl?” She yelled across the yard in a deep southern accent. I took notice in her colorful hair wrap, which matched her dress down to the very pattern stitched throughout the entire garment. “Just like a tribal woman,” I remember thinking to myself. To me, this woman had seemed very out of place. Being only 10 at the time, I had never seen a woman who looked like this. This was Jersey and I only saw ladies like her on the T.V so can you blame me when the only word that stumbled out of my mouth was “spider”? In the haze of my confusion, all I did was point to the spider while I slowly analyzed the situation. I mean was there a situation? Obviously not satisfied with my explanation on what I was doing on her property, she swiftly descended, the stairs crackling under her weight.

Taking off and leaving nothing more than a sandstorm behind me was what I wanted to do. My body, on the other hand, decided to stay put as if mesmerized with the movement of her dress flowing around her, making every step seem magical. It was as if she were merely hovering above the ground, floating towards me. As she quickly ate up the distance between us, my heartbeat picked up a little more speed and my finger tips frantically fiddled with the hem of my shorts, giving away at my uneasiness. She halted as she reached her mailbox. Her gaze was so fierce it sent a taste of bile into my mouth. Fearing that if I didn’t do or say any thing she might gobble me up with her piercing black eyes, I quickly pointed to the bait that had held me there and got me into this hairy situation. To  my amazement, the little bastard was trying to crawl away, as if saying “My job here is done.” Out of frustration I just wanted to launch it across the yard and almost as if reading my mind, the woman flicked it, sending the the little bug flying into oblivion.  Shock was clearly expressed on my face because although I wanted to flick that little shit myself, I wouldn’t have done it. She did. That kinda scared me.

“Where do ya live girl?” Her voice was gentle, almost as if she were purposely trying to sound that way. The look in her eyes was stone solid. Again left with nothing else, I pointed toward my apartment building. Suddenly I realized how far away from home, from safety, I was. Panic spread through my veins sending a shutter throughout my bloodstream, waves rocking me in what seemed like every direction. “I made homemade peach cobbla’ Would you like to try some?” She asked unexpectedly. The smell of homemade cobbler made its way to my nose as if on cue. Lucky for me I didn’t like peach cobbler, or peach anything for that matter. Finding the voice of reason and as well as my own, I blurted out, “No thank you. I don’t take things from people I don’t know.” Feeling victorious because I had done the right thing, I suddenly stood just a little taller, my chest out, and chin up. Then she said, “Well don’t cha know ya ain’t spose to talk to strangers either girl?”

With that, my white Nikes hit the dirty, pothole-infested road with such speed and agility not even a cheetah could have caught me. There was no way I was going to get caught up in the web of that woman. What if she knew voodoo?? What if that spider hadn’t been just a regular spider. What if it was a kid, just like me, that she tricked into having cobbler and then BAM!!! What if he had been trying to warn me? No wonder she flicked away!!

Reaching my destination before you could even blink twice, I ran up the steps, and into my home. I quickly kicked off my play clothes and hopped in the shower, letting the hot water wash away any traces of spell that could have been placed on me.

Weeks later, way after I put this whole traumatizing situation behind me, my mom and I were at our local grocery store. As we bypass the paper goods section and waltz into the cereal aisle, a familiar black shadow was standing at the far end right in front of the Cookie Crisp, my favorite cereal.

“Hello Sonia!!” My mother yells out in her accented English. “Come! Meet my daughter!” My mom rushes us over, pushing hard against my resistance. “This is my daughter! Nati, I work with her at Resorts!” I simply stood there shocked. Not only did I not care to even grab my favorite breakfast cereal anymore and so by default my mom would get Raisin Bran, but now I also had this scary lady’s eyes laughing at me, while her face stood still like as if this were the first time meeting me.

“Ma, I’ll be in the car.” And with that I turned and left feeling defeated, wishing to never see that woman again………

 

I never did see the “scary” lady again. Just yesterday I had asked my mother about her and she said I was crazy and hadn’t a clue of what I was talking about. The memory of this experience had been locked away until, ironically watching this movie. Funny the things our brain stores away and it only makes me wonder, what else have I up in this attic full of memories? What triggers will later expose other stories waiting to be relived? 

dscf0584-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Location: Yoga Fest California

Headed South

I cannot say that the day I made the decision to move to Florida I remember in full detail. Actually, that part of my journey here I don’t remember at all. I can’t pin point that exact moment when the decision was made, but I know it happened because here I am. The parts I do remember are as vivid as if it were happening right now. For instance I remember the difficulty I had in making a decision. Choosing between everything I had ever known in life and something so foreign and unknown to me was not at all easy to do. There is something about familiarity that can hold a person hostage. Even if you may not like the current situation, the fact is, that it’s something you know in a world full of unknowns and that reason alone can keep you there. Fear can stop a person dead in their tracks, keeping them from living life. Keeping them from uncovering new opportunities and new ways to grow. I eventually decided to go against that fear. Intuition had no part in it and those “gut feelings” that people always talk about were more feelings of being ill. All I know is that one day, about a year after the idea was first sowed in to my brain, my Maxima was crammed to capacity with boxes and trash bags, full of  what used to be my simple life.  Hitting the road at 3 am I left my protective bubble of New Jersey behind and off I was to the great, yet totally scary, sunshine state.

The feeling was like no other I’ve ever experienced before. It was late February and although it was ice cold, I had my driver side window rolled all the way down. Thinking to myself that I was finally free, all I wanted to feel was the freedom and with that window down and the breeze brushing against my face, I felt what it was like. In that moment all ill feelings I had before, all melted away. Similar to a bird soaring in the sky, I was at peace. I was free and I felt it.

My decision to leave home wasn’t because of any tragedy. I wasn’t running away from a crazy home life nor was I in the search of fame or fortune. It wasn’t because I was trying to get away from Mom and her “rules”. I had had a pretty good life, good friends, good everything really. Once I confronted a few issues from my early teenage years, I was good, or at least in a better place. My reason was simple. I needed change.

I remember waking up one wintry morning, and after sitting snuggled in my bed for a few hours reading, I put the book down and thought to myself, “there is so much to see out there..” Seeing only what I had seen up until that moment in my life, I wanted, no, needed, to see more. I wanted to experience more than the dead end casino life, the old and ghostly boardwalk of Atlantic City, and its over priced salt water taffy. I had to set out and see what this unpredictable world had in store for this vibrant and nomadic Jersey girl. I got out, settled in a small town on the gulf side of the state, and that was all she wrote..

Well, for that stage of my life anyways, hehe.

Yes, there were a couple frustrating hiccups along the road (those I’ll save for a later post) but I know that the choice of coming here was a good one. The flow of life was just too smooth for it to not have been. Life since then has totally been worth it.

I’ve had countless friends ask me how I did it? How did I just pick up and decide to leave one day and not ever really look back? I would have to say that my choice to finally take the step towards moving was small part rational thinking and majority on impulse. You have to just one day stop thinking and just do it.

Could things go wrong? Of course they can!! But hey, guess what?? Things can also go wrong in that familiar yet boring and unsatisfying situation you’re in. Would you rather run a risk of finding yourself in a maybe painful situation by pursuing the things you love, or by enduring the things you hardly even like?

Since moving here I have taken other risks in this journey of my life. Some worked out. Some didn’t. The good part of all this is, this one chance I took to move 1,300 miles away from home gave me enough confidence and strength to allow me to always go after the things I love without doubting myself. I realized that it’s through  experiencing that we will find the true rewards in life.

I’m almost thirty and I’m getting to that point where soon the youth will take my advice with a grain of salt. Still, I will never tire of telling people no matter their age or mine, move away from home for a bit. Get away from the comforts of what you have always known. Dive into the depths of those uncharted waters that have always appealed to you for they have for a reason. Pursue your dreams and make them reality. Look around and you’ll see that you are never too young, nor too old to make things happen for yourself. You can do it. You really can. If things don’t go as planned, it’s not a failure or a loss. It’s a lesson and from that you’ll learn to accept the things you maybe cannot change and tweak the things you can. Living. Learning. Improvement. Evolution.

 10012488_475753932608580_1627322358_n-2 Photo Credit: Natal Galvan Location: Sanibel Island, FL

Sandbox Blues

Mother swings me off her hips and gently places me into the box of soft white dust.

“Sit here and play a bit. Mommy is going to sit over there and have a chat with Suzie.” She points her painted red nail to where this Suzie woman is already sitting. Mother kisses me on the head but before she walks off she points again but this time directly in front of me and says, “Look, you have a play pal.” and with that she turns and walks off. I glance from my mother back to the kid sitting. It’s a boy and he looks as if he has black snakes slithering around his head, but what looks like snakes are actually his thick curls slightly swaying in the breeze.

“Lets make friends.” As my mother would say. Determined to not sit by myself any longer I get up, my legs wobbling a bit at first. I slowly and steadily make my way over, smiling to myself. My joy is cut short. As I finally make my way over to him I notice the trails of  moisture off of his cheeks sparkling in the sun. He’s crying. I reach him but I don’t sit at first. I’m just standing there staring at him and after a few beats he turns to look at me with his big blue watery eyes. He takes a couple of quick deep breaths, which gives away that he had been fiercely crying earlier, I know the drill. I plop down next to him and he turns to look away, bunching up dust in his tiny little fists and then slowly releasing it, allowing it to slip between his fingers.

That was the day I had met my best friend Henry. Now looking back I should have known then what was going to transpire later on in life. A relationship that begins on such a sad accord could only be giving clues as to how it would later play out, no? The day we met we spent the entire time doodling in the sand. His tears had eventually dried out and replaced by a tiny smile. Since that day, any time mother took me to the playground I always looked for him, and he was always there. Henry didn’t have a mommy. She had died while giving birth to him, a tragedy that he was never able to forgive himself for. His father was some big wig over at the DA’s office and was never home so Henry’s nanny was the one to really raise him. Henry only lived a couple blocks away from me so we ended going from playground buddies to classmates. As we got older we became inseparable. If we weren’t in the same classes, we met up at “our” lunch table and made sure we caught each other up on whatever we had missed out on. If we didn’t have the same lunch period that school year then it was on the bike ride home we played “catch up”. If either of us missed school, you better believe  that the other would show up after school with arms full of homework along with updates on the latest gossip. Of course we each had other friends but they didn’t come close to being as tight with Henry and I as we were with each other.

I remember it was sophomore year in highschool when my good girlfriend, Cherie, asked me, “Kira, why don’t you and Henry just date? He’s cute and you two get along so well. You’d never fight! Might as well!” She said enthusiastically. “Have you two ever done stuff ?” I slapped her arm. It was almost a natural reaction.

“Cherie!! No! Of course not!” I laughed loudly.

“So, No you wouldn’t date him or No you two haven’t done anything?!” she giggled.

What no one knew was that Henry and I had been each other’s first kiss. We had been in the 7th grade and it was a couple hours before before we were headed to our first middle school dance. We had dates and were speaking about them as I finished styling my hair for the night.

“The slow dances are going to be cool. I never really slow danced with someone before.” He said. “Well actually, ma and nana did a couple times when one of her favorite songs played. That doesn’t count though.” He then seemed to get a little distracted. I could tell he was thinking about her. Henry’s nanny died the year before and it was a tremendous loss for him. Since he never got to know his mother, his nanny was “mom” for him. To be honest, he probably missed his nanny more than his own mother.

“Well..” I tried changing the subject. “the last song of the night is always a slow song. It’s when you’re supposed to kiss your date.” The distraction worked for his full attention was now on me.

“Na uh! How do you know that?!” he asked skeptically.

“I heard the other kids talking about it in the hallway yesterday. They were talking about how you had to time it perfectly so you’d get done kissing before they turned the bright lights on.” I finished doing my hair with one final spray of my hairspray. I made my way to the bed where Henry was sitting. He was picking at a little lint ball that was holding on to my comforter.

“Well I wasn’t nervous about tonight until now. I’ve never kissed anyone before. What if I mess up? Or what if we kiss for too long and they turn the lights on!? Or what if she doesn’t even want to kiss me?” His mind was racing. It was pretty typical for Henry to get anxious. He was beginning to sweat a little.

“Dude! Relax! You’ll be fine! I happen to know that Amy is ecstatic to be your date tonight so why wouldn’t she want to kiss you?”

“I don’t know! What if I begin to stink or I’m not as decent as a dancer as I think I am?! Who knows! Girls are fucking weird!” He wiped away sweat from his brow. Any second now and he would start hyperventilating.

“Hey!” I shoved him.We both began to laugh and it wasn’t long after that my idea struck. “I have an idea!!!” I shot over to wear my CD player sat. “What if we practice?! I’ve never kissed anybody either and Brian’s like an expert. I don’t want to seem like a complete amateur. We could just practice on each other!” I was super excited. I mean, what are best friends for, right?

Henry thought about it for a moment, “I don’t know.Won’t it be a little weird?” Just like him, always questioning everything.

“How would it be weird?! We’re best friends! Who better to practice with?” I was rummaging through the stack of CDs that were shelved right next to the player.

“What are you doing?” He asked, still sitting on my bed but this time staring at me.

“I’m going to play a slow song and we’re going to practice kissing. It’ll help us to get the timing down too.” I found the CD I was looking for, popped it in and went to track 11.

“I never agreed to this. This is a really weird idea.” He ran his long slim fingers through his hair.

“Oh come on. Why do you find it so weird? Am I not pretty? Do I smell bad? Is there something in my teeth?” I walked towards my bedroom mirror.

“NO! You look great and there’s nothing in your teeth. I would have said something by now. He stood up and walked towards me. He stood a few steps behind me so that I could see his reflection in my mirror. “You don’t just find it a little weird two best friends practice kissing? It would make us each other’s first kiss! That’s not weird to you?”

I turned around and walked over to where he stood. I took his hands and placed them around my waist. I wrapped both of mine around his neck. The music had been playing and soon we began moving to the beat. We danced for a minute and once I felt like the timing was right I reached my lips up towards his. He met me halfway and we stayed there for longer than anticipated by either of us.

“Kira! Henry! Time to go! If you want to meet up with your dates and drive together we have to leave now!” My mother’s voice shook us apart like an electrical current. We began to laugh hysterically.

“Ok mom!” I shouted through my laughter. I ran over to the Cd player and shut it off and before running out the door grabbed my purse which sat on the bed. Henry was right behind me as we reached the door but before I opened it, I turned to look at him, “Honestly, I’m glad you were my first kiss.” and with that said, I turned the door knob and headed downstairs.

We had a great time at the dance that night and when the moment came, we each pulled off a spectacular kiss. Deep down inside, I felt like it was nothing compared to my first kiss.

The school years passed and towards the end of senior year we both found ourselves suddenly single. We went to our senior prom together and neither of us found it anymore appropriate. That night we ended up at an after-prom party. It was at our friend’s cabin right out on the lake and everyone was invited. We all partied hard and once the sun was about to make its appearance, Henry and I decided to end our festivities like any other normal teenager and headed to Denny’s for some early morning breakfast.

We’re sitting opposite of each other and spread before us was smorgasbord of breakfast foods, a personal buffet line. Except that we didn’t have to get up to get our food, it was all in hands reach. We stuffed our faces with blueberry pancakes, french toast, bacon, home fries, omelets, homemade biscuits, cinnamon sugar pancake puppies. You name it, if it was a breakfast item, we made sure to get an order. Halfway through our meal Henry takes a deep breath and leans back into the booth. This is one of his dead give-a-ways in letting you know that he had hit his limit. Me? It’s like I have a bottomless pit in my stomach so I just keep gorging myself. After a few minutes of silence Henry blurted out, “I’m joining the military, Ki” I was in the middle of chewing on some seriously stuffed strawberry french toast and hadn’t realized I had yet to swallow. There was sweet cream cheese stuffing on my lips, I could feel it. All I could was stare at him at first. Had I heard right? I was chewing so maybe I had misheard. The military?  “I know,” he continues,”You’re wondering where this came from and how it’s not “me” but…I really don’t know what else to do once we graduate. I hardly know what I want to do tomorrow let alone 5 years down the line. How could I dish out a shitload of money on college classes when I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life?” I slowly swallowed what I had in my mouth. The taste of the sweet strawberries and the deliciousness of that cinnamon battered french toast made my stomach feel much better. “I already took the entrance exam. I tested pretty high,” he smiled. “I passed the physical too. I feel like this would be good for me Ki. It’ll buy me sometime while I decide on what to be when I grow up. Plus, they’ll help me with school and great benefits.” He forked through the pile of blueberry pancakes.

“Hey! Don’t! Not unless you’re going to eat them!.” I fanned his hand away from the food. I take my early morning Denny’s sessions seriously. “So I did hear you right. At first I was questioning my hearing.” The shock of it all was still trying to sink in. “My best friend Henry is going into the military. That’s no joke, Hen. I’ve seen documentaries with kids just like you. They join for the money to fund an education they cannot afford. You know what happens, Hen? They comeback losing limbs or in a box, dude.” I was working myself up now. How could he leave? Off to fight other people’s battles for some extra time to think of what he wanted for his future? “Plus, who’s going to be my bestie while you’re gone? I’ll be stuck in this  town just going to college with no cool friends.” I protested selfishly.

“Ki, stop being dramatic. I’ll be fine. I’ll come back in one piece I promise and not in a box.” He picked up a strip of bacon and chomped half of it off. “You’ll make friends at school too, just watch. You’ll forget all about Hen.” He smirked at me.

“Those “friends” I meet won’t be half as cool as you so forgetting about you is out of the question. I am really going to miss you. I can’t believe you’re really serious.”

“Before you know it I’ll be back, Ki. I’ve just got to do this for me.” He just stared at me. I knew he meant business. He was that kind of person. Once he had made up his mind about something he stuck to it no matter how nervous or anxious it may have made him feel. It was one of the qualities I admired about him the most. Not like myself who was fickle and a complete walking contradiction. I grabbed his hand and held it tightly between both of mine.

“I’m going to write you all the time, Hen. I’ll keep you posted on everything. It’ll be like you’re not over in some weird and unfamiliar country. You’ll feel like your home.” I said.

And I did.

I wrote him, if not everyday, than every other day. I wrote to him about everything. I gave him every detail on the college life so to make him feel like he was attending with me. I of course kept him up to speed on the latest town gossip so he felt like he had never left. He would write me letters back talking about how awful the food was and how he was slowly adapting to military life. The years went on and the communication stayed constant and before I could even fathom the day was here. He was finally on his way back home.

He arrived a week after my college graduation. i drove 3 hours to go pick him up from the airport. I was so excited to see him. I hardly remember the last time I got to see his face in person. As I pull up to the curb I see him standing there. His curly hair was gone and although he looked more muscular, he also looked a lot thinner than what she remembered. His eyes wore dark circles and were a little sunken in. He smiled when he saw my car but the light in his eyes didn’t look so bright. I had barely placed the car in park when I ran out and over to where he stood. We embraced like we did that night of our first kiss, hugging tight like lovers would. A strange feeling hit me then. I stare up into his eyes and saw so much sadness that my eyes teared up. “Are you ok?” My voice barely more than a whisper.

“I feel much better now.” He said as he too stared into my eyes. At that moment we were frozen in time. It was at that very moment we both realized what was so obvious to everyone else all these years. To be there in his arms was exactly where I needed to be. Cars began to pile up around us, some of the drivers beeping for us to get out of the way. On the way home we were silent, only stealing glances at each other while the radio filled the air.  That night after we made love he said to me, “You were the only thing that got me through the dark times. You and your letters. It was through your letters that I soon came to realize how much I loved you and how I couldn’t wait to see you face to face again so I could tell you. I was a nervous mess when I was getting ready to fly back home, but once I saw you pull up and looked at that face, I knew it was going to be alright.” He smoothed hair away from my face and kissed my forehead.

“I love you too.” Were the only words I could get to come out.

I now stand here staring at Hen, thinking about all the beautiful memories we made together. I will make it my mission to allow only the good memories out weigh the sad ones, out weigh the final one.

When Henry came back, he was a truly changed man. Where as before he was an average boy with slight anxiety and nerves, he now was suffering from constant panic attacks during the day, and horrible nightmares at night. His moods would sway from one extreme to the other within a blink of an eye. We went to various doctors and psychologists but it wasn’t long before Hen was wrapped up in complete and utter depression.

I had just gotten home from work the day I found him hanging in the living room with a note at his feet that read, “I’m sorry Ki” and to this very day I carry that note around with me at all times. Some people carry around pictures of their loved ones around in their wallet. I carry my boyfriend’s suicide note. I always go back to thinking about the day we met in the sandbox and how since that very day we had become inseparable. We had grown to become so close and it took us so long to make our friendship into something more, yet it took absolutely no time for life to take it away. I lost my best friend and the love of my life in the same day and because of that I carry with me a heavy blanket of sadness. Beyond that sadness there does hide a bit of joy though because I knew Hen like no one else in the world did. I had the opportunity to not only know him but to love him and that is something for me to truly treasure. On a good day, when I close my eyes I can recall so many beautiful memories and I am undoubtedly so blessed to have them.

I give him one final kiss on his cold, pale forehead. I place my hand on his and let it linger there before I pull away from him. With every step I take my chest constricts knowing that he would be in that box forever, his final resting place at age 26.

I reach the church doors and push open. The sun beams immediately hit my face warming my cheeks and my soul a little. I take in one deep breath and as I let it out heads down the steps and towards my car. I unlock my car but before I get in  I take a few seconds to stare at what was across the parking lot in front of me, the park, and two little kids playing in the sandbox.