She surprised me. Like the shock of a jellyfish, eye opening and painful.
I wasn’t like this.
This isn’t me.
And from that moment I saw her, it took me seven years to be free.
She was always present, but never around. Not in the lunchroom or in the hall. Her photos confused me, but made my heart fall.
But… I wasn’t like this.
This isn’t me.
That flicker of light was blown out by heteronormativity.
I’d see her twice a year, three if the stars aligned, at this point in life I’d love to rewind, just because she had a perfect smile and skills to match.
She was a winner, but too hard to catch.
That year in high school was coming to a close. And it was the last stand off.
Home field advantage. But we never won.
I watched her walk away, the last time I saw her… Not even knowing she was my “someone”.
Photo Credit: Eiko Jones, August 23, 2016, taken while on a night dive in Tahsis, B.C.
I’ll never know where my love of silence came from. Quite possibly from the fact that I come from the mountains, where the only sound is that of nature, where the winds make the pines swish, making their way down the seams in the mountains, to settle on the valley floor.
I have began venturing into some free
writing activities, here’s the first of many:
It was hard to get the fire started. I hadn’t been a boy scout, and my dad was the typical accountant type–hair parted to the side, nasally voice, accompanied with an aversion towards the outdoors comparable to the plague. So, here I was, scraping the flint and tinder box with no accelerant. I felt like everyone was watching, but such was not the case. Everyone was hard at work, prepping for the ceremony. My ceremony. I cowered down inside, thinking to my self that I wasn’t worth all the trouble, all of the–attention. But I had made this choice willingly.
Finally a spark took to the dried grasses I had half-hazardley picked.
As soon as I had chosen to do this my fate had been sealed. Only verbal agreement necessary. I was being inducted.
I blew on the fragile flame, watching it take to the sun-dried foliage. I cautiously added kindling to avoid smothering the flame, it was quite infantile, not yet able to breathe and grow on its on. I watched the others in the clearing until they turned my way, I motioned to them and they began to head over.
My temples started to sweat underneath my thick hair.
I couldn’t keep this from happening now. The fire had been lit.
I could see the shadow of the small hare dangling by it’s ears in Fisk’s grasp, limply swinging back and forth with his gait. I silently hoped that the blood will have cooled by the time I had to touch it.
Anna and Thomas grinned at me when they got within sight, I returned a nervous smile. But they understood, induction night was always a bit tense. Behind me Fisk slit the hare’s throat–who small head was strangely adorned in a crown of white alpine daisies and dandelions. The dark liquid pooled in the dust next to the fire, which was important, unbeknownst to me at the time. The blood had to be mixed with the soil before it could be distributed, to connect you to the earth in the area you were inducted in.
Each of us watched as the pool continued to grow, looking more like chocolate syrup in the low light. Fisk crouched down to a short stump and placed the hare gentle onto it. He then picked a daisy from the miniature crown and put it behind his ear like a cigarette, stuck his pointer and middle finger into the blood, removed them and then smeared the blood across his forehead over his brows.
I swallowed, too dry and too loudly, they could tell I was nervous. Anna and Thomas then followed suit, and then it was me. I took a breath and went to crouch down to retrieve my daisy, but I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked back and saw Fisk handing me a crown of my own! He moved closer to me, placed it on my head and then motioned towards the coagulating pool on the ground. I put my fingers into it, it was sticky and lukewarm, and I tried not to think of it when I smeared it on my forehead.
I stood and faced the small fire, which everyone had circled around. A quick glint of light caught my eye and I saw Fisk flipping open a pocket knife. I had known this was coming, it had been no secret–but still, it surfaced as a sickening surprise. One-by-one Fisk cut into our palms, I watched as the blade slice into my soft skin and left an oozing trail behind.
I felt something drip down my temple, was it sweat? Blood? I couldn’t wipe it away, so it ran down the side of my face, tickling it as it fell.
Fisk cleaned off the blade on his shirt after cutting himself last. Anna smiled, almost graciously as he did so, and then interlaced her fingers with Thomas’. They then reached out to me. Me! I was dumfounded and unable to move. Finally I took a small step forward, held out each hand and felt each of them take one. And then there was Fisk, directly across the fire, across the circle. He told me that Mother Earth had chosen me. Anna squeezed my hand, and I felt our seeping palms squish into each other until the blood mixed and dripped between our fingers to the ground.
My stomach lurched, but I coughed it back. The pain made me wince. I looked up and across to Fisk. He smiled and said to me with a wink.
“Don’t worry Daisy, the first cut is the deepest.”
And it was then, that moment, that I knew I was going to be okay.
I look at you, and you look straight back at me.
Calling to me.
Calling for me.
Like a ringing in my ears.
I look past the imperfections until you are flawless to me.
And it boils down to one word:
After four years, I feel as if I’ve done my time.
The roar of the interstate I now identify as home.
The brown grasses that crunch beneath my boots.
And yet, it still doesn’t feel like home. It doesn’t feel like home. It doesn’t feel like a place I want to come back to.
Where am I? Where is my home?
It’s not here.
It’s never been here.
But the home I once knew is gone. Erased.
I’m lost. My soul, lost.
The desolate miles of desert sagebrush mirrors my heart, empty.
I turn my face towards the bitter wind. It chafes my cheeks and snowflakes sting my skin.
But it’s all I can feel. I want to feel something. Anything.
Don’t hold your breath, breathe with me. Focus in your mind.. One. Two. Three.
I will always protect you, I will always be here. Don’t cry, don’t be afraid, don’t worry my dear.
When your world feels unstable; like a splitting ice shelf. I will always keep you safe, even from your own self.
A response to “I wasn’t One of the Four”
I was incorrect.
Over the six months being separated from my ex-boyfriend Michael, I did a lot of soul searching and critical thinking of the relationship that we had shared over two years. I feel as if it is vital to not only my integrity of the truth, but also my credibility as a writer to admit that I was wrong about the situation that I explained in “I Wasn’t One of the Four.”
With that being said I also want the public to realize that the article I had written prior to this was not composed of false truths or written out of vengeance. I was only trying to explore the situation through my lens as a writer and come to terms with myself about what had happened throughout my relationship with him. I also really want to press the fact that I did not write it for the purpose of the revenge–being in the confused state that I was in, thinking I had been abused (and being an avid feminist), I only wanted to be able to reach out to other women who I believed may have been in the same situation I had been in.
With that said, I now will explain what I found out had really happened during Michael and I’s time together.
We met as bright-eyed bushy-tailed freshmen in the dorms during our first semester of college (typical right?). After the first conversation we had–which was two hours long–I knew that he was going to be a large part of my life in one way or another, and later he divulged that he had felt the same way.
I do not believe in love at first sight, but I believe in human connections.
After we met things escalated quickly, we began spending most of our time together and sleeping in one another’s dorm rooms (our poor roommates). We pressed the idea of “no labels” and explained to our friends that we were just two people who were attracted to one another and spending time together (there was some monogamy involved)…but soon we finally made things “official.” Pretty sure it was even FBO by that point.
The semester flew by, as they always seem to do the older you get, and soon we were packing up to go home for 5 weeks of Christmas break (woo!). Our last night in the dorms Michael and I stayed the night together, and the next day the goodbye was heartbreaking… when I drove out of the parking lot watching him wave in my review mirror I suddenly had a terrible feeling in my stomach, like something bad was going to happen.
And it did.
Michael (being the strapping rugby/football player he was) had his nose broken several times during high school, which gave him terrible sleep apnea (I swear, the first night I stayed with him his snoring was near deal breaker point). So, he had a tonsillectomy/deviated septum surgery scheduled during the break.
The surgery went swimmingly; however, a few days later he had an adverse reaction to his pain medication and ended up aspirating into his lungs, which left him without oxygen for 15 minutes. His mother found him and began chest compressions and screamed to call for an ambulance (I was later told). This was the message I woke up to that morning from his younger sister:
I drove 303 miles to the hospital where he was laying in the ICU in a little over 2 hours, which is a drive that would normally take someone closer to 5 hours.
In a nutshell: Michael was rushed to the ER where the physician promptly told his parents to contact their priest, for he was not sure if he would be able to resuscitate him. Michael ended up in the ICU on a ventilator in a medically induced coma. After he woke up Michael had no brain damage whatsoever and both the nurses and the ER physician were shocked because they had thought he wasn’t going to make it.
Michael experienced a miracle.
However, after his accident is when things began to become difficult for the two of us. Michael did not come back to school the follow semester due to the occupational/emotional therapy he had to attend. We then made a conscious decision as a couple to begin our long distance relationship. And we made it, the second semester ended with tens of thousands of text messages sent, thousands of miles travelled, hundreds of hours spent on the phone, and 2,628 minutes spent on FaceTime–which ends up equalling out to approximately 43.8 hours.
Michael moved back and began taking classes that summer, it was the moment we had been waiting so patiently for for 5 months… but our high hopes were only diminished as things became worse.
Michael being less than 10 miles from me at all times definitely messed up my perception of the time we should have been spending together, after being so committed to the long distance relationship we had been in. I constantly felt as if I had to make up for lost time and being used to being in contact with him 24/7 started to scramble my brain like the eggs you had for breakfast.
I didn’t realize that it was okay not to be in constant communication with him all of the time. I didn’t realize that it was okay that he didn’t spend the night every single day, or even the fact that he might not want to. I didn’t realize it was okay to lead separate lives and still be together. And this is where the problem began… I couldn’t stand not having some sort of his attention all throughout the day, I couldn’t stand to be without him. I was later told that this was a form of PTSD and that my body went into the fight or flight mode every time I was without him. I was literally so terrified to lose him again that my body would physically shut down. But at that moment in time neither of us knew that, the only thing I knew was that I couldn’t physically be without him for more than an hour, and he knew he loved me but felt I was being overbearing.
Which I was.
As humans we develop our attachment styles as children by the age of 2 due to the environment we grow up in. Growing up with divorced parents skewed my attachment style, but Michael’s accident pushed it over the edge. At the time, if I had the option to surgically attach myself to him…. I probably would have, just so I didn’t have to be without him and I would always know that he was okay.
The form of constant overbearing love I was giving out of anxiety continued for six months, which ended up driving us both crazy. Soon I found myself in counseling and on medication because I knew how much my behavior was affecting our relationship, and I wanted to fix it… I just desperately wanted things to be normal for us.
Unfortunately, they never were.
Things between the two of us consistently got worse. I will probably never know the exact reason why our relationship failed– whether it was due to the lying that was being done, the tears that were being shed, or the constant stress put on us while we were just trying to figure out how to be a “normal” functioning couple.
Throughout our roller coaster of a relationship we lost friends, the support of each other’s parents, and just the basic trust of everyone around us. We sucked every individual in our lives into our deep pool of problems like a sinkhole, and one after the other every single person became involved or intertwined in our relationship, which only made it worse.
The more we broke up and got back together (which the number of times is lost to me now) the more we were burning bridges that we didn’t realize had even caught flame, until things became so complicated that we felt as if we were stranded in cinders due to all the connections that had been damaged.
Our relationship was toxic, it was never abusive.
There were those in my life that were convinced I was being abused, and I was so afraid of falling into the next generation of battered women in my family that I began to believe them. However, I was never afraid of Michael, and according to the domestic violence counselor I saw after the breakup that is a sure sign of the absence of abuse. When I was told that I breathed a sigh of relief and tears began to fall from my eyes. I knew in my heart that I had not been abused, but during that time my brain was telling me that I was just another naive battered woman that couldn’t see the situation she was in.
Michael and I were involved in what is referred to as situational couple violence (SCV), not intimate terrorism (aka abuse). There is a striking difference between SCV and abuse, SCV typically erupts from heated conflicts that get out of hand. It occurs when both partners are angry and is tied to specific arguments, so it is only occasional and usually mild. It is also often mutual, with both partners angrily impulsively flying out of control. Abuse on the other hand, which is referred to as intimate terrorism, is where one partner uses violence as a tool to control and oppress the other. Compared to SCV intimate terrorism is more likely to be one-sided, escalate over time, and involve serious injury to it’s target. Women who experience intimate terrorism are those who usually seek refuge shelters, although many of them don’t due to the fear projected on them by their partners.
Millennials, I believe as a generation, don’t even know what a distinctly “normal” relationship looks like. We have grown up being fed fairy tales along with horror stories–we may find our prince charming, but we will probably just get divorced. So it’s no wonder that extra stress has been put on us in the realm of the dating world; thus, the world of tinder, friends with benefits, and unlabeled relationships were born.
We live in a world of miscommunication at it’s finest and as we progress we begin to lose even the simple concept of having a straightforward conversation, which ultimately creates conflict. On top of the fact that we can no longer communicate with one another, we are also the generation most effected by divorce. So not only do we have difficulty relaying information to one another, but we also don’t even know how a functional relationship operates.
However, there is no excuse for being brutal to one another as Michael and I were. Yes, neither of us knew how to communicate or function in a healthy relationship, but that doesn’t mean what either of us did is excused. I played just as much of a part of it as he did, and it took me 6 months and a load of counseling to realize my own mistakes and to take the responsibility of my actions.
As women, we do have the upper hand when it comes to most relationships, whether that may be in the bedroom or just as the boss of the remote. But on a more serious note in the case of domestic violence. I am in no way doubting that women get abused, or supporting the notion that we should not believe them. I am only stating that women should educate themselves on the signs and cycles of abuse vs. individual occurrences of SCV, because accusing a man of abuse could ultimately ruin his life (which is great if he deserves it). Usually, whether the complaint was a lie, a misunderstanding or actual abuse itself, the courts will take the woman’s side.
Four women do die daily as a direct result of domestic violence. In my previous article I stated that “I thanked God that I wasn’t one of the four.” Other than the obvious reason– of me still being alive–I was right, I wasn’t one of the four. You know why? Because I was never abused.
Whenever we argued, flew into another fight, or were just inexcusably mean to each other we always thought that if we would’ve met at least a year and a half prior than when we did, then things would have worked out. If we only would have had that two hour conversation after his accident maybe we could have made it.
We really were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Just as I expected I have neglected my blog for an extended period of time. I sat there and promised myself that I would be diligent with my writing to capture a steady following; however, my life has become nearly unmanageably busy the past few weeks. So here I am, after procrastinating for the past few months, my apologies.
In the past couple of months I have felt more like a college student than I ever had in the last two years here in Laramie. As I wrote in “I Wasn’t One of the Four,” I became a total introvert only serving my controlling boyfriend. I became a snail recoiling into her shell and shriveling at the salts of criticism from those who loved me. I just began treating the people around me the same as Michael treated me–horribly. Looking back on the past two years of my life disappoints me, and brings me close to tears at the thought of everything I missed out on. I met him the second month of my freshman year, so the genuine dorm experience I should have had became completely obsolete. Which bums me out terribly. I loved living in the dorms, contrary to others beliefs I had so much fun experiencing that type of living situation that only comes around once in a lifetime. And I threw away 3/4 of it for the first guy I met. Pathetic Katherine. Absolutely pathetic.
But here I am, bouncing back two years later–and what sometimes feels like two years too late. For the first time in 730 days I am absolutely exhilarated at the thought of the life that lies before me. I actually feel like I have options and the freedom to travel and speak my mind, to make new friends and establish new relationships. I have hope that I will grow into the woman I have always wanted to become, the woman that loves herself just as much as she loves life. And I can see myself blooming into her. Just within the past three full months of my complete freedom from the abusive oppression I was enduring I feel alive again.
I know this because people have begun to see me the same way they did two years prior: a happy, thoughtful, giving woman with a constant smile on her face. Sure, I’m exhausted when I get up in the morning after a full day of classes and working until 11:00 each night. And yes, I hate the world and the sunshine for those first few alarm beeps, but after I open my eyes and begin to remember just how great of a life I have that smile gets plastered on my face for the day.
For the first time in my life I feel absolutely beautiful. I went ahead and participated in a nude photo shoot, which is something I have wanted to do for years. I feel like a grown ass woman. I’ve finally finished attempting to fit into a size 4 and starving myself all day. Curves are great, and I never thought that they would make me feel so grown up and mature. I am finally comfortable in my size 6 at 145 pounds, you know why? Because I’m healthy, and when you’re healthy you feel absolutely wonderful.
In the past few months I have reconnected with my best friend, and created a new group of people to hang out with. My own group of friends that share the same beliefs as I do,and I am no longer piggybacking off of my boyfriend and trying to fit in with those ignorant assholes he hangs around. I have once again begun my battle with the social issues that riddle our society and have become an ally to multiple groups. I have spent an ample amount of time with my family and strengthened the ties that were so very weakened from the past two years of neglect. I have stayed at an old guy friend’s house over new years and shared that 1:00 a.m. kiss with him. He was more or less a stranger at this point–having not seen him for five years, but it still felt right… not in the soulmate romantic way, but in the way that I knew what I was doing was making me happy. I proceeded to cling to him on a beautiful snowmobile ride that took us so high into the mountains that we were level with the backside of the Tetons, the view was breathtaking. I have excelled in my new job of Copy Desk Chief, I have begun to thoroughly enjoy my classes once again, and finally . . . I can tell that my soul is irrevocably happy.
It is absolutely everywhere. Every time you scroll through Instagram you come across at least one highly edited photo of a twinkling diamond sitting upon a perfectly manicured hand. After so many engagement announcements on Facebook and wedding invitations in the mail a girl has to think to herself at least once, “Well shit, what the hell am I doing wrong?”
Now, I am not trying to sabotage the happiness of those who are happily wed, for I believe each person has their own choices to make and fates to embrace. However, I, among many others, are one of the single women thinking to themselves, “Am I the only one getting left in the dust?”
Popular culture has tried to convince us that getting married young is the most recent and sought-after trend. Well, I’m sorry about it pop culture, but you’re wrong. Dead wrong.
According to Pew Research, “Barely half of adults ages 18 and older are married—51 percent in 2010, compared with 72 percent in 1960.”
Additionally, the rates of marriage are declining while the average marriage age is rising. The advances and social acceptance of birth control has given women opportunities in careers that they never would’ve dreamed of 60 years ago.
The median age of marriage in the 1960’s were the early 20’s for both men and women, compared to the median age taken in 2011 where women average 27 years-old and men wait to tie the knot until they are 29, said Pew Research.
Nevertheless, I understand completely that every once in a while a woman gets down on herself for being single. I won’t lie, it is lonely and self esteem depleting; however, there are additional studies that say that single women are happier than those who are married.
This is because women find it easier to make life-long meaningful relationships with other women.
According to WebMD, “Men tend to have a certain homophobia about hanging out with another guy . . . For men it’s not so easy to sit down and have coffee or a leisurely dinner with another guy.”
WebMD continues by saying that wives or girlfriends tend to be the main source of emotional support for men, and when the relationship is over they lose that.
The simple solution is girl power. We all know the saying chicks before dicks, but in all seriousness friends are like bras, close to the heart and there for support. There is nothing more therapeutic than a night out with the girls… or even a night in front of the TV.
According to sciencedaily.com, gossip is even emotionally healing, “Although not associated with self-esteem or life satisfaction, higher levels of gossiping were associated with feelings of greater social support.
So long story short, us single women are not necessarily the minority and even more importantly we are slowly coming the majority. To put it simply I know that being single really sucks sometimes, like really sucks; however, it is not something that a tipsy night with the ladies can’t fix
It’s okay to be alone, embrace it! Truly, this is the one time in your life that you don’t have to tend to a stinky husband or screaming kids. Travel, explore, learn, and most importantly enjoy the young life that you have. Single women really have all the power in the world because ultimately we are the ones that call the shots. As Mandy Hale once said, “’Single’ is an opportunity to live life on your own terms and not to apologize.”
Previously published in the Branding Iron