The Pause Button of Life

     Sythelie

A few years back, after I’d attempted suicide and survived, a friend bought me World of Warcraft and Burning Crusade. He told me that he wanted me to start playing the game because he didn’t want me to hurt myself again. I was so tired of fighting life and of always feeling victimized or used, that I figured playing a cartoon version of what my ideal self might be like would at least offer me some sort of escape. I could cope with daily life, and all the pressure I put on myself so long as I could escape into this game for a little while. Anime was awesome, but I couldn’t interact with it. Music only worked until the earpieces came out.  So I dove into this game and lo and behold, I loved it. I loved the colours, the stories, the powerfully shimmery and sparkly magical spells. It was a safe haven.

 Shortly after starting the game I met Chris and we enjoyed playing on various servers, with tons of different people. Our friendship became a relationship and I brightened up a bit. Then, as the game became more casual oriented, a lot of the hardcore WoW players started to get incredibly aggressive, some showed a lot of anger. They took it out on people who didn’t deserve it, and I started seeing this everywhere I went on just about any server I went to. I’m sure it isn’t a game issue. It never is. People with anger issues hardly ever target what’s genuinely causing the core anger. Nope, they were using this as a method to vent out their frustrations in real life, because something that once made them happy had changed and instead of adapting to change, they were going to do everything possible to ruin that change for everyone else. It happens. It’s sad but it happens. I didn’t let it totally turn me off of the game, but it did make the experience less enjoyable. I’m not a hardcore gamer but I’m not really a casual either. If I get invested in a character and in my groups progress enough, I take it seriously and work hard at what I’m doing. Just as with anything in life. I just didn’t like what I saw when it came to new people being treated like the enemy simply because the vintage generation of WoW decided they weren’t worthy.

Then I met someone who thought I wasn’t worthy of Chris. And that hurt. It hurt even more when that person, who happened to be a real life friend of his, started to play with us and would sometimes lash out at me. I didn’t realize at the time that it was deeper than just annoyance about a friend being taken by a girlfriend, so since there were also days where the guy was kind and helpful, I let it slide. But then I moved here to be with Chris, and it got worse. Much worse. The guy would sit at our dining table, and say stuff like “I’m going to stab you.” and because Chris was used to this guy sometimes making aggressive off the cuff comments like that, he didn’t see it as something scarier. I did. Because I’ve been on the other side of that wall before. I’ve had that heated anger and disdain thrown at me before, so I knew it was serious this time. I slowly stopped playing WoW. I didn’t know why, but I knew I wasn’t happy in Azeroth anymore. My depression sank to all new levels because I was so far from home and at the time hadn’t made any friends. How could I? Our time was ALWAYS being taken up by this other person. This person who would come to my home, eat my food, insult me, and stay until 4am sometimes. WoW slipped away, Chris and I fought a lot. It was scary, lonely, and I felt like I was just drowning. Then I met Yazmin, who spoke Spanish too and we bonded a bit and she invited me out, where I met Teresa. Teresa who is now my best friend. After that guy finally crossed the line by telling me he wanted to strangle me, kill me, Chris saw the seriousness of it and put his foot down. That guy is no longer in our lives.

I know some people who don’t know my husband would assume that he slacked off on the department of husband/protector. The reality is that this other dude was someone he’d known since childhood, and Chris gives people the benefit of the doubt. He is kind of an oxymoron like me. We think tons of people are stupid, but we also think a lot of people have good in them, and we don’t always think that people are going to go to an extreme. I always fear it, but I pray it stays far away. Whereas with Chris, he doubts their conviction and passion enough to think that they won’t go through with stuff they say. Two sides, same coin. It took a while, but what counts is that he finally took me out of that situation, and has never put me back in there again. Still, WoW was tainted and I couldn’t touch it. I couldn’t stomach watching him play. I resented the game because it had begun to represent all of those angry and hateful people, but worse, it represented someone who emotionally abused and terrorized me for months. It was a scar that just would not heal.

After a while, Chris got kind of bored with it too and we just stopped playing. A few weeks ago, his brother sent him a Resurrection scroll and he started to play. As I watched him play, I started to feel this pull. I didn’t understand why, especially since I had so hated and dreaded the thought of getting back into that world and facing angry hateful people again. I went to lay down when it finally hit me like some lightning bolt. I was envious. I was jealous that he could enjoy the game and I felt like I wasn’t -allowed- to. Then I asked myself why I wasn’t allowed to. I realized that the guy who had been so hateful towards me wouldn’t be on every single server, and even if he were on our server he wouldn’t actively be seeking us out. So… why was I holding myself back from something that a friend had gotten me in order to heal, in the first place?

We talked about it. I was worried about wasting our money in case it did turn out that I didn’t like going back. We tried a Resurrection scroll for me but since I’d used one in the past (when I’d attempted to go back) I couldn’t use it. By then, I knew I wanted back in for sure. Being told it wouldn’t work made me sure that I at least wanted to try. So we signed me back up and I’ve been playing with Chris. Twenty minutes into our leveling new characters, I realized “Holy… I’m actually having fun. I’m running around and not associating it with anything that made me feel bad.”

And that’s where I realized that pausing things sometimes isn’t a bad idea. Sometimes, we’ve got to take a step back from something we love but have begun to hate, instead of forcing it. Then it can become fresh and new again so that we can associate it with better things instead of negative things.

It’s a game. I know. It’s a game that kinda saved me from a very dark pit in life. We all have that in some way or another, or we can if we let ourselves, anyway. More importantly, we’ve all got a pause button. So before clicking the off button on your life, if it’s that scary and desperate, try the pause button first. Maybe in a bit of time it will be a heck of a lot better than you thought it could be. What have you got to lose? It’s on pause.

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Being the person who stands by.

 

High school. So much to be said and yet it’s all the same isn’t it? We all had our traumas from it and our best moments from it, and we all look forward to the day when we’re no longer mortified by that one super embarrassing event we went through. Funny thing is: No one else remembers our high school experience as acutely as we do. They had their own story, their own soundtrack, and their own cast and crew. Needless to say, high school was a Motherfucker. Yes. I said it. It was an asshole. I left at 16 with the thought that I’d never ever want to go back. I’m still content with the course I chose. I tested out early, went to college early.

As I get older, though, I do look back sometimes and am in awe of how many life lessons I learned throughout my time there. We all hear about these bullying horror stories and a lot of us raise our hands and take the “I would NOT let that happen in front of me” stance. Sadly, that’s where it usually ends.

I had a lot of anger during my teen years. Oh god, the internal angst of a teen who did whatever she wanted! ARGH! I was actually really lucky in some ways (even if not in others, as previous posts can show). My parents knew that at the core I was a good kid so if I wanted to hang out until late, I got to. If I went to a friends house, they weren’t always nagging me. They knew I’d make logical choices based on the things I’d observed as consequences to friends and relatives who made BAD choices. That didn’t make me immune to the typical “I’m so misunderstood” phase of the teens. Sometimes, I wish I’d stepped out of my self-righteous rebellion and looked at the bigger picture.

See, I was not at all popular in High School. I had friends call me a social butterfly, but ask any of my previous schoolmates who I am, and they’d try to find me in the yearbook only to find “Picture Not Available.” because I skipped that day. Sue me, I hated yearbooks. Anyway, even without being popular, I wasn’t bothered much in my first high school. Until I started standing up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I don’t regret it, but I wonder if I should have handled it differently.

Whenever I hear a bullying story, I’m reminded of three different specific occasions in which the bullying at my first high school went to an extreme. The first time was the most heartwrenching for me. The next few weren’t as angering but they were still quite bad.

The very first time I witnessed bullying, I had just left my Art class and was headed towards my English class. Our school was separated by buildings and there were these sidewalk pathways leading to the doors of each one, with a sort of metal awning at the top. I had just gotten into the building where my English class was and walked in, when I saw these jocks, and I mean these BIG hulking guys, taunting a guy in a wheelchair. The guy in the wheelchair looked familiar, but since I usually hung out with the grunge and goth crowds, I didn’t know him by name. It did catch my attention that they were taking away his schoolbooks and backpack. It caught my attention that they were taunting a guy with no legs. A nice guy, by all appearances and few interactions with him. What happened next still makes me cry. They flipped his chair forward and threw it aside. In a panic to get away from them, this guy dragged himself by his hands out towards that rough sidewalk right outside, while someone laughing held the door open for him. The sidewalk scraped what was left of his legs and the entirety of his hands and arms, I later found out. The thing that to this day frustrates me, is that I let my rage take over. I was only like 5’2″ at the time and wasn’t fit, but when my anger took over, it raged out of control, and all I remember is repeatedly punching and clawing at some of these guys. I broke one of their noses. I only saw blood and kept wanting to hit him more. I wanted him to feel like everyone who had ever been hurt felt. Victimized. To this day, I wish I’d chosen to grab the wheelchair, find the hurt guy, and help HIM. I wish I had bothered to find out his name and be his friend instead of pummeling his enemies. Why? Because those jackasses, those assholes, wouldn’t remember any “lesson” I thought I was teaching them, but this guy might have remembered the kindness, and may have had just a little easier time in high school if I’d been wise enough to be a friend instead of a vigilante with a chip on her shoulder. The thing I regret most, is never finding out his name, never talking to him (because I didn’t see him again), and never extending a hand.

The second time, this sweet girl who I was sort of friends with was sobbing and came to me to tell me that the guy she had been dating told everyone he had slept with her and that she had an STD (which he hadn’t and she didn’t) to get back at her for not putting out. A ton of guys and even some girls were really laying into her, verbally abusing her, humiliating her. What made it worse was that she was this super quiet girl who never messed with anyone, and the people who were supposedly her friends weren’t even comforting her or sticking up for her. So I found the guy. He happened to be by a locker near mine. I asked him his side of the story and when he laughed and said she deserved it, I threw him against the locker and held him against it and made him confess the truth. Probably not so bad, until he told me that he’d do it again, in which case… well, I had a pair of jeans that I called my nosebleed jeans for a reason. I used to introduce my knee to peoples faces if they weren’t exactly kind. It’d be almost funny to joke that I was on a first name basis with some of my teachers and the principal of the school, except that it’s true, and it wasn’t as fun as it sounds. If it hadn’t of been for most of my grades, I probably would have been gone from the school long before that. Either way, the only thing that I really regret about that situation is that instead of helping her figure out how to stand up for herself in a way that worked for her and helped her take control of her own life, I took matters into my own hands and instead solved a temporary problem instead of helping her gain permanent strength.

As for the third time… well, I had a guy friend who was extremely effeminate and was always getting teased by the hicks in our school for being gay. He was this fluffy lovable guy who was way taller than me and was kinda chubby, but healthy for the most part and really kind at heart. On this day, I had the awesome idea to wear a really elaborate black dress, and went full on goth mode. It was great. I felt right in my own skin. These guys decided to shove my friend around a bit in front of me, calling him every unimaginative gay slur you can imagine. It was actually kind of pathetic considering our really great English program at that school. So I intervened, because my buddy was a more gentle and patient person than I was. Problem is, fighting anyone while wearing a dress is really messy, in spite of what they show you on tv. They slammed me against a vending machine and upon seeing a temporary tattoo I had above my breast area and near my shoulder, they decided to rip my top. Yep, right in the middle of the lunch area, they ripped my top and of course, most of my guy friends from English as a Second Language (which I had been in for 8th grade and 9th due to some messed up bigotry on behalf of our wonderful educators) got really mad and started over, which led to the hicks backing down, but not before making it clear they wouldn’t forget my “bravery”. That was when I learned that at times, throwing a fist is not as beneficial as using your wit. Had I not thrown a punch, and instead used some sarcasm, confused them a little bit, maybe made them feel a little dumb, they wouldn’t have ripped my top, hit me back, or later on caused problems for my Hispanic schoolmates (although that last one may have happened anyway. We will never know.). Point is, there’s always a bigger picture and a different alternative. There’s also a lot of different consequences.

While I know I’ve mentioned a lot of things I regret about how I handled those situations, I can certainly say one thing that I am never going to regret. I don’t regret that I stepped in. I don’t regret that I had good intentions. I don’t regret that I didn’t stay silent while someone else got hurt. I know a lot of people who regret standing by, though. I know many who still beat themselves up for not stepping up and helping someone who was on the verge of breaking. Those people who regret those things, sometimes can’t go back to say they’re sorry. Not even if they tried. Sometimes, when we don’t step in, the people getting hurt will do anything to stop that hurt, and that anything might just be the worst permanent thing you could never hope for.

In the end, consider your options, but most importantly, always ask yourself “What outcome can I live with for the rest of my life?” and base your choice on that. Can you really live, knowing you may have turned a blind eye to someone at the end of their rope?

I couldn’t.

More than flesh and blood.

   I have been gone far too long. I realize that. Mainly, I realized it because of the effect it’s had on me. I go through bouts where I lose myself, lately. Then something amazing brings me back and I’m left in awe of the little things (and some big things) that can bring us back to life when we’ve begun to wither and lose our capability to move forward.

A few months ago, the ever awesome Wil Wheaton made a post on his blog that jarred me back to reality. At the time I was out to dinner with my husband and during a brief lull in our conversation, we checked up on the internet (to make sure it was behaving, obviously). I was stunned by the raw honesty in Wil’s post about his kids. The post can easily be found here

As I read it, my thoughts immediately jumped to my dad. My awesomely funny, abrasive, supportive dad. I immediately wanted to run home and write this post, but life and it’s many detours kept me away that night. As more days passed, I faced other obstacles which led to my feeling like, “why should I even post anything, really? I’m new at this. I’m not famous or anything. What on earth can anyone gain from anything I have to say? What right do I have to a soap box.” and I just sank. I stopped in mid-cycle and didn’t move forward for a while. So please forgive the tardiness but allow me to respond to Wil’s post with a post of my own.

Most people who see my parents walking down the street with me tend to assume that my dad is my birth father. They’re always shocked to find out he isn’t. My Aunt Pichy even found that he and I have identical “beauty marks” on the same exact spot of our right forearms. The truth is, though, my birth father is not my father. He never has been and never will be. I was fatherless until I was 5 years old. My mom struggled like crazy to provide me with shelter, safety, love, and food. My mom’s great. Flawed, like any human being, but so great. I honestly never thought I needed a dad. I had a ton of awesome aunts and grandparents, and this totally screwed up but sweet human being for a mother.

Then she met Luis, or Saso as everyone we know calls him. I can’t lie. To me, he was moms boyfriend so I can’t remember much about the time before he became “dad”. But I do remember a few things. This guy DID stuff. COOL stuff. He took me fishing, gave me piggy back rides, made donuts at home, and tucked me in. This guy came to school with my mom to enroll me. He walked me to the bus stop. And when my uber dumb cousin would pick on me, he’d say enough was enough. At the time, he was a total rockstar.

I still didn’t call him dad though. I think I didn’t know how to. I don’t even remember calling my birth father dad. What, between the constant belittling of my mother in front of me and the brilliant disregard he had for me as a little kid, it was amazing I even recognized the guy as a parent.

I don’t know what triggered it. I just remember the moment it happened. It was a slightly foggy day in Massachusetts and ‘Saso’ had walked me to the bus stop. I was wearing a yellow shirt and these blue jean overalls with flowers embroidered on the corner. As we waited for the bus to come and pick me up, he held my hand. Steady, firm, warm. He reminded me about my homework. He told me what he made for lunch for me that day. We got quiet. It was really early and the fog made for a pretty gloomy morning but as he held my hand, and as I looked at his hand holding my own, something stirred inside me and I very carefully, quietly, and with a shaky voice and tears in my eyes, I asked him: “Can I call you daddy?” and he looked at me at first with such worry, some sadness, and very kindly and quietly he squeezed my hand, and as his own eyes teared up he said “Yeah, you can call me that.”.

My dad is no saint. No one person really ever is. We all let someone down along the way. But he’s always been supportive and even when he was furious with me over something, I never once stopped being his kid.

Sadly, from the time I was 12 until I was around 23 or 24, I honestly felt like I had lost my place in my dads world. You see, I was sexually abused as a little girl by my cousins boyfriend (and later he became her husband). For years. When I finally spoke up about it, a lot of things were turned upside down and inside out in our lives. Suddenly, for whatever reason, I felt such a huge distance between my dad and I. I felt like I could do nothing right, except academia, and my anger, frustration, and depression was really screwing that up, too. I was desolate and desperate, angry, and hungry. I was so hungry for anyone to blame for so very many things that I think I pushed people away. Especially, because I felt like I could not speak up about how I felt. My family is awesome but for a long time we were a family full of silence. We didn’t discuss our pain or dialogue our needs, and it corroded us from the inside. My mom stopped doing creative projects. My dad started reaching outside of his family instead of within it. I wallowed and blamed. Everyone, including myself. I ripped my inner thighs to shreds with cuts. I burned myself with matches just to remember I existed.

After an explosive situation with my mom and dad, I realized that I was so exhausted from the sheer silence, that I spoke to my mom first. I explained that I needed to talk. I needed her to talk, too. I needed him to talk as well. Most of all, I needed them to remember I was there. She and I came to a serious understanding that night and now, even if she does get very excited or sometimes a little defensive, when I voice things, she does listen and she does reciprocate.

Dad took a little longer. I think, because of the fact that I’m not his blood-borne, I worried about disappointing him more so than I worried about disappointing my mom. After all, if the blood father could reject and throw me away, couldn’t he? Eventually, I overcame that worry. While Mom was over in Puerto Rico helping my grandmother out with my great grandmother, I took the chance to talk to Dad. We spoke of our regrets and our worries about how we’d handled our lives as a family. I stood in the doorway as he folded his uniforms for work, and I said, for the first time in my life since the abuse, “I thought you stopped hugging me because you thought I was dirty. I felt ashamed. I thought you didn’t think of me the same way anymore.” and he crumpled up his chefs shirt and held it close. He started to cry a little and said, “I never thought that. I was upset. No one told me anything specific, no one told me what was going on. I couldn’t do anything. I felt helpless.”.

After finally understanding some of my dads distance, I felt such a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. Better yet, lifted off of my chest. I had been drowning for so long that this conversation reminded me of just how true my father was. It reminded me that I may not be his own flesh and blood but I am so much damned more than that. I am of his soul.

So when reading Wil’s post, my instinct was to want to hug him. To tell him that even if his kids aren’t all flesh and blood of his, that they are of his soul. And that Anne is one hell of a mom for taking them out of a hurtful situation.

Wil, if you ever do read this, they are so much more than blood. They are of your soul.

Just as I am of mine.

Thank you for reminding me of that.

When Not Knowing Who You ARE Defeats The Person You COULD Be.

   img-thing

When massive changes come into our lives, there are so many possible things that can occur within us. We can transform from caterpillars into gorgeous butterflies… or we can shrink like ugly brown leaves in Autumn. Let’s face it, even the bravest of people can become shell-shocked when encountering something new that’s far outside of what they could have ever imagined.  I am not particularly brave but I’m not cowardly either. I’m in the healthy middle where if poop hits the fan, I can roll with it and come out standing. Whether I’m as I was before is a completely different matter. Due to the fact that I am a (confessedly) tad emotional at times, things can often hit me very hard and even if I do tend to take things as a lesson and grow from them, that doesn’t mean they can’t leave scars in the meantime.

I am, to be completely and most unabashedly honest, utterly lost. I was once a very go go go individual, always with a project, always independent. That changed when I moved to Canada (or Canadia as I like to call it). I’ve always wanted to travel and live abroad but in my imagination it was going to be some place amazing with a ton of rich history dating back CENTURIES upon centuries. As a History nerd, that concept thrilled me in a way that chocolate, girl toys, and watching anything Bradley Cooper does never will. And Bradley Cooper thrills me. Oh he does. My husbands not even jealous about it, which is awesome because it’s not like I’m ever going to get to meet Mr. Icy Blues. Point being, I had plans.

REALITY: PLANS CHANGE.

That can kind of suck. In ways one wouldn’t believe. Where I was once on a path to being a History Professor with a background in marine archaeology and ancient art, I’m now a housewife. Don’t get me wrong. I love taking care of my guy and he is great at taking care of me (especially during tear-filled breakdowns about how I miss my crazy family so damned much it hurts)  but often times my mind wanders right back to the shoulda beens and coulda beens. I am not one of those people who picks up a hobby to fill a void. Yes, I enjoy knitting scarves and making jewelry. I love watching anime and am kinda enjoying this blogging thing a lot. At the end of the day though, it’s not what fulfills me and pretending it does is a very unhealthy way to push into the coming years. The question is: Is having a “secure” future with a job of my dreams, most likely without my awesome husband in tow, worth it?

Kind of obvious answer here: Hell no.

I know a lot of self-assured women out there probably just guffawed at that but the fact is, I DID grow up with instability. My parents tried their best. I don’t resent how I was raised one bit. The reason my husbands worth sticking around for is simple. A life filled with everything except that one cure for the hollow aching in ones stomach to know that they will have someone at their bedside if they get ill, or to understand the really dumb jokes we make, that person who can hold you when you sob at 3am in the morning over something you can’t control but wish with all of your might that you could, makes no sense. We die alone. Everyone says that. I get that. Funny thing though. We aren’t BORN alone. We’re not. Which means that whichever route you prefer to take is up to you. Live alone, thrive on money and whatever makes you tingle inside as long as it harms no one else. Or live with someone who drives you nuts sometimes but makes you laugh and smile a hell of a lot more than they make you angry. I prefer the latter.

That doesn’t mean that I’m comfortable giving up independence and the career I love. It means I have to tweak my career options to still fit what I love to do within the realm of what I can do. That’s hard as hell in a very small town that has no desire to pursue these matters. Art and History get shelved in the far back of the priority bin here. I can hope that changes or we can figure out what our lives will have to be like for both of us to be comfortable in the future. Personally, I need my family. Hell, I need a LATIN FOOD restaurant that isn’t Taco Time (which is almost 2 hours away by the way!). As a Hispanic American who has to deal with so many levels of ignorance here that I cringe whenever someone equates Puerto Rico to Mexico (I have an awesome friend from there who has many similarities to me, but we are completely different culturally speaking, and that’s just fine) or whenever someone tries to lecture me on the struggles of minorities when they themselves are not a minority, I get fidgety and fantasize buying a plane ticket back to the States.

Here are a few of my gripes:

1.  Many people I meet feel the need to lecture me about the United States. I have to listen to everything about how our education system “is” (and they are often times WRONG) to conspiracy theories about how the Boston bombing was a hoax set up by the government (which let me tell you, the governments of MOST countries have so much on their plates right now that bombing a race is probably their least priority and I find it shocking that anyone would make such an uneducated suggestion followed by “So I don’t care if those people died because like, there are people like, dying in Venezuelan hospitals, like right?!”. I grew up in Massachusetts you dillhole. I don’t want to hear that crap, nor do I have any desire to feed into the anti-anybody mentality.

2. Getting blasted about Native culture by anyone who isn’t Native. Hi. I can read. I’m well aware of the current situation. I won’t voice my personal beliefs on the matter but I will say this. I will not tolerate anyone insinuate that I’m a racist against ANY Native culture. Why? Because Puerto Ricans are TAINO’S. I.E. A Native tribe currently encountering similar circumstances and ailments, just handled very differently. Different methods, same results. So I don’t judge.

See? Not actually that many gripes. There are some things I like about where I am and some I dislike. Kind of the same as anyone else in the world right now. What matters is how we approach the situations we are handed. What matters is how we make the best of everything around us and try to be the better person when someone strives to upset us. Also, sometimes people don’t even mean to upset us. They might be having a bad day and that in itself is okay. It’s not okay to treat your friends or loved ones badly because you’re not sure how to handle whatever you’re going through. That’s when you stop, clear your head for a moment, and ask for help.

Currently, I’m in shadow-mode. I look at my own shadow and don’t even know who it belongs to anymore. So what? I’ll get to where I’m meant to be eventually. For now I make the best of it.

But for the love of all that is good, stop trying to convert me. I’m an American Puerto Rican Israeli with a bunch of other ethnicities tossed in there.

Like my dad says: “I don’t need to do anything except stay Puerto Rican and die.”

Now, to end this on a happy note:

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See? Thrills. Just Thrills.