The Art of Choosing to Love

I encourage you to expand your readership. I appreciate your continued attention to English Wallflower, but I would also love for you to check out my wife’s blog, too, which she is just starting. New content to come from English Wallflower, but in the meantime, check it out!

A Wonderful Mess

Marriage Photo Nik and Caitlin’s wedding, 2017 (ft. Skylar Astrid)

Let me tell you about the moment that changed my relationship forever.

Flashback to 2016. It’s late, but my spouse (fiancé, at the time) had to drive by work to grab something. I was angry. I don’t know what about, but I was angry and depressed and angsty and curled up in the passenger seat, staring out the window and refusing to talk to Nik.

My cold shoulder, the first one I ever remember giving to them, lasted about five minutes.

I don’t remember how we got there, but I remember losing it on them as we pulled into the parking lot of their work. I snapped about them not understanding me, not taking care of me, not loving me… When they fired back at me, despite all the shitty things I had said, they were loving. Angry, yes, but loving all…

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Shilling-dren: A Photo-Bomb Life Lesson

Three years ago, I splashed this message across my social media:

“FUN FACT: A child is not a commodity.”

Fast forward…well,  three years.

I’m on a Mommy/Kiddo date with my kid, Skylar, today. Buckling Skylar Astrid into the car seat, one of the first questions I ask is, “Hey, can I take a picture of the two of us heading out on our date?”

Skylar says no, I let it go, and we head out.

We go to the library because I’m the proud parent of a total pop-your-collar-level-geek-in-training. No shame. We embrace our weird, geeky personalities, and we have fun. It’s been an hour in the library already—we’re killing it, right? We’ve colored cardboard houses, run up and down the aisles pretending they are secret passageways, played music training games on the computer, practiced the alphabet, hopped into a fort-tent contraption, and piled our arms (well, my arms) high with books. True story: it’s a blast.

About the time Skylar is scrawling secret messages and spells on scratch paper from beside the computer catalogs, I bend down and ask yet again, “Can I take a picture of the two of us having fun in the library?”

Skylar says yes. Yet, by the time I pull the camera up, flip the camera into selfie-west (that’s what the “S” on the map stands for, right?), and go to click away (likely in some annoying, accidental “burst” of photos), Skylar doesn’t want to take a photo anymore. The hands go up to cover the face. Murmurs of “No…I don’t want to take a picture” escape from behind those tiny hands.

I put the camera down. I’m disappointed. I want the world to know how much fun we’re having, how much Skylar is loving this, how special the date is, etc.

In this moment, I remember my social media declaration from three years prior. I remember that I said children are not a commodity. When I said this, I know my head was in a different place than during today’s date with my kid. I was thinking about financial implications surrounding children—it seems implausible that a person could ever attempt to make money off their children given the outrageous cost of raising one, but that’s where my head was at then: people doing everything they could to “make money” off of simply having a child.

It irritated me. It irritates me still. I know I should suspend judgment, and I do try, but I admit: It irks me. It’s irksome.

Yet, if I’m going to let treating children as a commodity irk me, I should let my own behavior irk me, too. What happened on my Mommy/Kiddo date today is not quite the same, but it is quite the same.

Here I was, doing something I often do: trying to show off my kid via photographs (that always, always, always end up on social media).

Given a commodity is a product that we trade, sell, or buy…this might seem a strange parallel to make, but it’s not. With parenting, our children often become a “product.” In the case of the behavior that originally irritated me and sent me to social media to express my outrage, parents often let their children become a “product” in the sense that they use their support of the “product” to justify receiving something in return—a trade.

While my intentions were genuine on this date, the moment I began asking Skylar to take photos with me, knowing I would post them all over social media, I participated in the same type of behavior: I shifted my child from simply “child that I love” to “child/product,” and though it is far more subtle than seeking some type of financial gain, it is still altering my child into something inferior for my own gain.

What do I gain? Ah, well, that answer makes what I was doing even more foolish—a couple of “likes.” A retweet or two. A “heart” on Instagram. In the case of turning my precious Skylar Astrid into a “product” by “selling” the photos that prove how much fun we were having, how much Skylar was loving it, how special the date was, etc., the only real return is the gratification of other people’s reactions online.

Wow, I feel like such an idiot.

It’s human. In our hyper-connected society, at least. In our platform society, at least. And the truth is, I know that even though I caught myself today, I will fall into the trap again.

Parental pride is normal and acceptable. Wanting to “show off” your kid comes naturally when you’re a parent. I’m not denying that. I am not encouraging us parents to go on a photo strike or stop telling others how much we love our kids or how much our kids accomplish.

I am simply reminded not to fall into that trap as often. I am simply reminded to take photos to cement memories rather than to perform for the world around us.

And I encourage you to remember, as well. After all, your kid is worth so much more than that.

Watch It Glimmer, See It Shimmer

I find it difficult to feel now.

It happened one year ago. My body soared through the air, and my skull caught my fall—my brain shocked by the impact.

It is no secret I’ve avoided writing about this. Look through the cobwebs of my blog. Look through the cobwebs sheltering my desk. Look through the cobwebs of my creative mind. Fluttering through the air, you’ll see the sprinkled dust that comes with old, abandoned places. Almost shiny, like glitter. Spoiler alert: it’s not glitter.

I need to describe the feeling, which is ironic because what I’m describing is a decline in…well…feeling.

Pretend you’re standing across from your wife. You’re facing this person you’ve loved for a long time, this person you’ve married. You’ve sacrificed so much for this person. This person has watched you nearly die. The short of it: you’ve been through so much together.

You stand across from your wife.

But you’re enclosed in a yellowed, plastic mold. Like Jell-O*.

Pineapple Jell-O that seems, at first glance, to offer no particular flavor—you’ve got to risk tasting it to find out if there’s anything to it.

The structure around you is thick, gelatinous, and hard to navigate. Hell, it may even be easy to slice through with the right tools, but with only your hands, tearing it apart is useless. Even after you’ve broken it, there’s no way to grasp the good pieces. The whole bit you’ve broken off falls apart into a semi-liquified mess.

You can see everything you desire, but it’s foggy, and you can’t touch it. You can hear everything around you, but it’s the muffled thumping of busted speakers instead of the crisp, clear sound that you’re used to. You can’t touch anything, but you can rub your viscous outer shell against it all (which may or may not win you any friends). You can taste everything you once tasted, but it’s all tinged pineapple, so even though it isn’t unpleasant, it’s not quite right. You can’t smell at all—not the perfume of your wife, not the scent of your child’s hair—because your nostrils are filled with the same gummy mold that surrounds you.

So, yes, you stand across from your wife. You remember—even feel how much you love her. But you’re walled in, unable to see her beauty clearly, unable to hear her laugh as vibrantly, unable to touch her skin with the same effect, unable to taste the kiss between you two, and unable to recognize the smell of her hair, her body, and her perfume anymore.

You might wonder what the problem is, and I’ll tell you. Your wife isn’t walled in Jell-O.

No, your wife feels everything as much as she used to. Your wife does not find it difficult to feel. Your wife did not land on her skull, did not bounce her brain around—your wife does not have damage to the parts of her mind that invoke feeling. Your wife sees you but cannot see your shell. Your wife yearns for you as you were before but cannot mend your mind.

And it’s not your wife’s fault she is this way. Just as it’s not your fault you find it hard…to feel most ways, most days. She tiptoes up to you, grasping her arms around you, stretching her arms to bring them around the flavored dome that is this wall around you. She stretches, she stretches, she stretches until she is almost broken.

You reach back, and though you reach her, you are coated in the mess. There is nothing anyone around you can see. There is no physical sign. This mess is not visible to the rest of the world. You fight to feel past it each day, and you know you will keep fighting, keep healing, but yes—it is a fight.

And fighting is hard, unforgiving work.

One year ago, I flew fabulously down toward the pavement. When I struck the ground, the start of what was almost an end began.

A blank space exists between the before and after. I remember quesadillas with my wife and her sister. Then, I remember waking up in an ICU, where I spent most of my time vomiting and writhing in pain. Nothing felt the same. It felt as if the atmosphere around me had changed.

Because it did. I’m not the same. And pretending I am is only causing me pain.

It’s time to move forward. Yes, it’s different, but nothing ever really stays the same, anyway.

Per Jell-O’s own website history, on “March 17, 1993, technicians at St. Jerome hospital in Batavia tested a bowl of lime Jell-O with an EEG machine and confirm the earlier testing by Dr. Adrian Upton that a bowl of wiggly Jell-O has brain waves identical to those of adult men and women.” Now, there’s some fucking irony.

A Short Guide: Why Wondering is Bullshit

It does not feel like this is a safe world for the ill, the mentally desperate, the dependent, the altruistic.

I grieve for the person who climbs the stairs instead of taking the elevator. They do it simply to tell themselves, “I can still do this—I can still exist in this boxing ring we call life.” I grieve for the person who, at night, screams the muffled cry of anger into the pillow before slamming their fist or head or [pick an appendage, any appendage] against the coffee table in desperation. They do it simply because the glass is NOT half full—it’s overflowing, and that’s NOT coffee, friend.

I grieve for the person who needs, who depends, who survives only if there are 45 minutes to give…when 44 minutes are all that’s left on the clock. They need 45 simply to face the basic tasks of living, and it requires them to curse the world in a way that makes them feel dirty: “This is a need—not a want! This is a need—not a want!” I grieve for the person of pure intentions who the world approaches with suspicion, criticism, or anger. They do what they do simply to DO, which is a forgotten but worthy motive.

As if to love would maim the confidence or the pride or the ability or the advancement or the [sometimes egotistical] peace of others. To turn on the light of another is to turn off our own—a lie. A fear. A grandiose delusion for the sake of saving ourselves when we aren’t even in danger. An itching, gradual death for the care of others.

We must discontinue the disposal of the dispirited. We. Must. Discontinue. The. Disposal. Of. The. Dispirited.

A statement which leaves people only to aimlessly wonder, “How?” Just how do I contribute to a dissolveMENT, to a  discontinuation of the disposal of the dispirited? And the answer is this: wondering is BULLSHIT.

Yes, my friend. Shame on us for wondering! Human as it may be, shame on us for wondering. For it is already in us, in our natural human actions that we’ve denaturalized because we spend too much time looking, looking, looking but failing to see, see, see that EVERYONE is human and EVERYONE is real. So we don’t wonder! Instead:

We hold the fucking door!

We tell a fucking joke while we walk with them up the stairs! While we walk…WITH THEM.

We fucking tell others that their shirt is RAD, COOL, LIT, THE SHIT, EXTRAORDINARY, (drop $50 word for cool here)!

We fucking sit up with them and keep them company so that the coffee table isn’t their only friend!

We fucking text just to say hi!

We fucking give 46 minutes!

[We fucking drop an enormous number of “fucks!”]

We fucking offer to help with their dog, their car, their move, their alien invasion, their new job!

We fucking accept their actions as only what they seem to be and nothing more! Down with paranoia and suspicion!

*author catches digital breath*

We treat other humans like…humans, friend.

Because aimlessly wondering is BULLSHIT. We are better than the wandering wonderers of a type of world we’ve forgotten. We are the creators of safety. And we are the beacons for the ill, the mentally desperate, the dependent, the altruistic.

Word Seek

I used to speak.

When did the silence grow? Around me—silence. It is ironic because it seems all I do is encourage others to speak out, up, to…

I want you to speak out…about what matters to you. I want you to speak up…for your needs, for the needs of others. I want you to speak to…me, a friend, a therapist. Where are we without speaking, after all?

I’ll tell you where I think we are when we don’t speak…at least, I’ll give you my interpretation. I think when we don’t speak we are in a place of stigma. We are in a place of muted voices or in a place of silence. We are in a place where hope flickers instead of thrives and my, oh my, would I rather us have hope that thrives.

I realized this during a word seek. It seems the irony does not end. I realized as I sat—in a public place, no less—searching for the word “murmur,” then the word “outcry” (you really can’t make this shit up!), that I was in a place of silence. I was in a place of utter silence, in a place that does not speak.

But it wasn’t the silence of the atmosphere itself that drew my attention. It wasn’t simply that no one was around, that the space was built for the hushing of others, that some kind of consistent glaring at people around me ensured my silent scope—none of that was what drew my attention. No, when I had this revelation, this moment where I thought to myself, “I used to speak,” I was in a space that encourages speaking out, up, to…yet I was not speaking. What drew my attention was that the space that does not speak was and is a space built from a place inside myself that, well…does not speak.

In the past, I’ve spoken. I’ve said:

“If you kill yourself, a bunch of weird stuff isn’t going to happen to you…You’ve got to stick around…I love you.”

“If you do not live, there will be something that matters missing from the world.”

“You may look like nothing more than a broken tree branch…But…you are awesomely weird…And you are going to rise from those ashes.”

“Just live and breathe and seek healing the best you can.”

“People…Just love them. Just love them so hard it feels like it can wash away any wounds, any scars, any boo-boos.”

“You’re still cool. And I love you…And your rockin’ flare jeans. And your smile when you’re talking to people that make you happy.”

“Every breath you take is a victory. Every mile you travel in this life is a victory. You are a victory.”

When did I stopped speaking? That’s what I asked myself as I dropped my pen that I click too much when I’m anxious. That’s what I asked myself as I put the word seek to the side. That’s what I asked myself when I stopped everything I was doing to come here, to speak to you instead. To speak again.

Because, friends, we can’t let the silence grow. We must continue to speak out, up, and to. We must continue to encourage others to speak out, up, and to. What matters to you matters to someone else. You may not believe me, but I promise you—it does. Someone, somewhere needs to hear you. A place of silence—if we let that silence grow from an internal space to an external one—is a place where the voices around us, as well as our own important voice, is muted…or entirely absent.

Oh, don’t let your voice be entirely absent, friend. If you can, don’t stay in a place where hope only flickers. We need each other. I need you. I need to speak again. So, here I am. And I need you to speak with me. Live to speak and speak to live.

Dear __________: A Letter to the Person Who Almost Died (But Didn’t!)

Dear Person Who Almost Died (But Didn’t!),

Wow—you almost died. But you didn’t. You’re still alive. You’re still alive, and you’re reading this right now. I’m genuinely happy that when you almost died, well…you didn’t. Been there, done that, my friend. I’ve got the t-shirt, and it’s not even lousy. It’s a lovely shade of black, which is sort of my jam. I’m so serious right now. I mean it. I’d fist bump you if this weren’t a letter. Yes, I still fist bump, and I’m okay with—no, proud of—that fact.

Let’s get a little real for a moment, though. Because I love you, and I feel like it might be hard for you to be alive right now. At least, there is a good chance that it is was hard, it is hard, or it is going to be hard—and no matter which of those moments you’re in, you matter and that feeling matters.

Much of the time, the movies and the inspirational stories and the general ideology of our culture is that if you almost die but you don’t, it’s all roses and sunbeams and choirs singing in the background. I know that is not the case, my friend. As someone who has woken up in an ICU confused as f**k and with my entire life altered, I get that it’s not always roses and sunbeams and choirs. Yes, sometimes you wake up from almost dying and life is awesome—you lived. You’re thrilled to be alive, and you appreciate life more because of it. I’m not saying that won’t happen (it probably did happen, is happening, or is going to happen). But I sure as hell don’t want you walking around lonely or confused or even angry at yourself because that’s not where you’re at right now.

Here’s what I know about almost dying but not actually dying that you might need to know someone relates to:

  1. You’re going to feel anger—and that’s okay.

If you almost died, but you didn’t, there is a good chance your life is altered in some way—physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, etc. Maybe your body doesn’t work like it used to (and it may never again, or the road to recovery might be long). Maybe your beliefs are brought into question by the circumstances surrounding your brush with death. Maybe your emotions are naturally altered by the trauma you experienced, or maybe, if you’re like me, friend, your emotions are literally altered by damage to your brain (on top of the trauma). Maybe you’re unable to work for a short time, a long time, forever. But your life is altered—and you feel anger. You want to punch walls, you want to scream in churches, you want to fight strangers. In many of those cases, you just want to feel again in a way you’re not able to feel since you didn’t die. And that’s okay, friend. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you unworthy of your own survival. You don’t need to mask that anger (control it the best you can, yes, but mask it? no). Your anger is valid and you are valid and you matter, even if you’re angry.

  1. You’re going to wish you died at some point—and that’s okay.

There is almost nothing more disheartening than almost dying, surviving that trauma, experiencing a moment (or moments) so painful or overwhelming once you lived that you wish you died, and having someone tell you that your reaction is ungrateful or irrational. Survival of a traumatic incident alone does not somehow make you superhuman. You’re not blessed with the ability to go one-hundred percent Zen in the most difficult of moments simply because you happened not to die. That is not how life works, so it can’t be how living works, right? When you arrive home from ICU, lie down in your own bed for the first time, and rock yourself through the first night of intense physical pain, or emotional onslaught or overwhelm at the life you left behind pre-encounter with death, you’re allowed to wish you had died. It’s hard, friend. The act of surviving alone does not make living easy. Don’t let others convince you that you’re doing something wrong. You will find moments of gratefulness (you probably already did, currently are, or eventually will). You are not automatically an irrational creature for wishing, in the throes of survival (which itself is often a difficult process), that you had died. Your reaction is valid and you are valid and you matter, even if you find yourself uttering the words “I wish I had died.”

  1. You’re going to need time to learn to adjust—and that’s okay.

Your situation is entirely different than mine, friend, but I can tell you this—you don’t almost die and wake up fully prepared to face your new life to come. Minor or major, there are changes to face. Changes inherently imply an adjustment period. You may find people have no patience for that reality, which is hard to fathom. As humans, we spend our time preparing for hard times mentally. We envision those hard times in our mind. We imagine how well we will deal with those situations, how brave we will be, how wonderful our inspirational story will be when it is all said and done. Our Lifetime movie is going to be a syndicated television hit, y’all. We’re going to be inspirational as f**k. Likewise, as humans, we spend our time preparing for dealing with others’ hard times mentally. We envision reacting to our loved ones struggles in our mind. We imagine how well we will deal with those situations, how understanding we will be of their emotions (emotions we cannot truly understand), how we will patiently wait by their side as they struggle to return to a place of new normalcy. When we’re actually in the thick of those situations, though, as humans, we often fail. I don’t tell you this to depress you, friend. I tell you this to help you deal with the lack of patience you might be experiencing as you face the road that is survival. Adjustment is necessary and not easy. People will not always be there for you in the way you expected, and it’s important to remember that they are people just like you—meaning that even though it is hurting you, their failure to be there, it is so utterly human. Your necessary adjustment period (however short or long it may be) is valid and you are valid and you matter, even if you’re facing people who don’t yet know how to understand that.

This is not an inspirational poster, my friend. You are not a photograph with a tagline attached. You are not a humpback whale jumping out of the water with a quote about courage transcribed beneath you. What does courage even have to do with whales? Nevermind—that’s another rant for another time. The point is that you’re not that poster. You’re a real human with a real story that has real implications.

Survival is not a moment. Survival is not literally encompassed in the moment your heart tries to stop but does not. Survival is not the first breath after the trauma. Survival, as cliché as it is going to sound, my friend, is a road. And roads tend to suck. Or if they don’t suck, they have moments that make them hard to drive.

Yes, roads have beautiful scenery and gorgeous colors and amazing breezes and interesting people and awesome music. But roads also have speeding tickets and potholes and erratic deer and fender benders and poorly painted dotted lines. Roads are not a moment, though. So, if you almost died but didn’t, friend, know that your survival matters—your survival as a whole and not just the moment your body breathed again. You matter. And…by the way? I’m so stoked that you lived, and I’m so grateful that you’re facing the struggles that sometimes come with that reality.


A Friend

P.S. My wife is concerned that I may have at least one reader that is, actually, a humpback whale. She is worried that I am isolating that humpback whale as a reader. My friend, my humpback whale friend—I love you, too.

Positive I’m Not Qualified: A Discussion of Body Positivity

I want to talk about body positivity but I can’t talk about body positivity because I know that I need to talk about body positivity positively (shock and awe!) with affirmations and understanding of my body’s particular features and flaws but here I am, your writer (*small curtsey*), the most unable to talk about body positivity the way I need to talk about it. So, what can I do? Nothing. My hands are tied. The cake is baked. The end is nigh. My voice here does not matter.

Except…well, my voice does matter. Just like your voice matters. Ah, a solution (*claps hands, does twirl*)! My editor1 is in the corner telling me my clapping and twirling is getting awkward. Quick, let me adopt a tone of authority and wit, once again.

If I want to talk about body positivity but I can’t properly talk about body positivity because I know that I need to talk about it positively, then maybe it becomes my responsibility (and with great responsibility comes great power—that’s how it goes, right?) to acknowledge that despite my own personal struggles in this area, body positivity does, in fact, merit discussion. It does2.

Acknowledging that the body positive movement is an important movement—I can do that. It’s important to do that. It may even be more important to do that because I struggle, myself, to adopt any attitude that even slightly resembles something like body positivity. If the body positive movement includes an essential element like constructing a stronger, more positive house of self-esteem (SPOILER ALERT: it does), then I simply can’t insinuate a solid connection between body positivity and my personal life. I’m not even trying to take a more positive approach to my self-image, yet, so implying that connection at all might be what they call a lie fiction. Oh, but maybe, then, in writing this post to you, my faithful readers3, I have just started, literally before your eyes4, to develop that connection between my own personal life and body positivity. Plot twist, y’all.

Acknowledgment is a step—a crucial step. Why don’t I take it a step further and get a little real with you, since we’re on a roll and all?

I don’t feel like I can properly talk about body positivity because when I look in the mirror, I see a person who is tipping the scales at (almost) their highest weight of all time. Close, but no cigar. Man, I can’t even beat my own record! I see this, and I never go beyond the critical inspection of my belly, thighs, and general physique. I suspect (though I think we’ve rightly established I’m no expert) that the next step in trudging toward a more body positive approach would be to own that thought about my weight, then go on to remind myself that “Hey, you’re kind of a sexy beast, anyway—fun fact. Check out those wrists. Those wrists make people’s speakers go boom boom. Those wrists got that boom boom pow. Oh and good Lord, look at those eyes. You’ve got those hazel eyes that make people pause—some days you’re Harry Potter and other days you’re Hermione Granger with those eyes, but you’re killing it with those eyes no matter which. Even better, your wrists and eyes are so damn on point that it doesn’t even matter if anyone else likes them. You look good. And hey, if it really matters that much, remember you managed to lose 100 pounds in the past. You can do it again. That’s just a side note, sexy beast in the mirror.”

I don’t feel like I can properly talk about body positivity because I spend most of my days angry at my body. I have a chronic illness that affects my daily and overall functioning, coupled by anxiety/depression/bipolar, recently visited by a near-fatal accident5, topped with a touch of6 gender dysphoria. When I drop a sugar packet while making coffee, I cringe. Bending is difficult. When I try to dress in the morning, any attempts to make my body match my mind generally involve a physically challenging battle that leave me exhausted and irritated. When I miss class because the pain is too much, I spend more time kicking myself than I do taking care of myself. I suspect (even a long paragraph later, I am still no expert) that the next step in trudging toward a more body positive approach would be to own these struggles my body has, then go on to remind myself, “Hey, you’re kind of amazing. You leave the house every single day of the week on average. Even when the pain has tears pooling at the corners of your eyes, your badass self straps on those two or three bags and trudges off to tackle your job, then your school, then your homework. Despite the fact that your body is exhausted, when it’s your time with your daughter, you dance with her, you play with her, you spin her round until her giggles wake the neighbors. You’re epic.

Yes, your humble writer wants to talk about body positivity. For now, though, your humble writer is only going to commit to acknowledging that the body positive movement is an important movement. Your humble writer is also going to switch back to the first-person because, let’s be real, it’s getting awkward7 up in here.

There is not much argument—valid argument—against supporting body positivity, as I see it. People loving themselves more seems right up my alley, especially since I spend the bulk of my posts reminding people that everyone is human and everyone is real. Also, especially since I spend the bulk of my posts reminding people that they are loved, at the very least by some awkward stranger on the internet (but, in a more likely reality, by many people, both known and unknown to them).

There can’t be much argument—valid argument—against encouraging others to forgive the flaws in their body, or (*gasp*) even go beyond that to realize that “flaws” is likely the wrong word to use to begin with.

There can’t be much argument—valid argument—against providing people the tools to build up their own self-esteem by starting and moving through the process of loving themselves. If I love you, I feel like there should be some give and take here, y’all. You should have to try to love yourself8, too. It’s only fair, right?

So yes, I want to talk about body positivity but I can’t talk about body positivity because I know that I need to talk about body positivity positively (shock and awe!) and even though it seems (at least for the last 1200 words or so) that I have been talking about body positivity I don’t think you should hold it against me but probably instead just give me an award9 for acknowledging that I and the rest of the world does in fact need to talk about body positivity and if we are not there yet maybe we should work on getting there because yes the body positive movement is an important one.

Maybe this is my step one. I don’t know. If it is, though, take it with me? Because yes, everyone is human and everyone is real. Nothing perceived or misperceived about their body is ever going to change that—that much I know for sure.


  1. The editor is, in fact, only an editor in my head and, as such, is vastly underpaid.
  2. See that? Tone of authority, y’all.
  3. All nine of you! Sarcasm aside, I love you more than I love my cat when she sleeps on my neck in that suffocating way that cats do (something that one shouldn’t really love, probably). Oh, the tears—here they come. We’re having a moment, aren’t we? This is our moment.
  4. I’ll dedicate the book to you. …but you’re still going to have to buy the book. Just to clarify.
  5. That brought its friend and uninvited, infinitely unwelcome guest—a guest who goes by the name “A-long-term-road-of-recovery-ahead.”
  6. My editor would like to note that he suggested editing the phrase “a touch of” to read “raging.”
  7. I would like to recognize that I know it is rarely, if ever, not awkward up in here.
  8. I know how hard this is. Jokes aside, I know how hard this is.
  9. My editor says I shouldn’t have said that.


I am sure many of my readers and site visitors are curious about my absence this summer. As it happens, I nearly died over the summer. More to come in the way of long, multi-part blog posts that include detailed explanations and contemplative reactions, musings, and more. Be patient with me, friends. You’ll hear my thoughts soon. ❤

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of Darkness Walk in Jax, FL

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Support Wild Wiles West as we walk to fight suicide in the Out of the Darkness Jacksonville Walk.

What is so wild about Wild Wiles West? Mostly…love.

We love each other fiercely, and we’re striving to learn to love the rest of the world just as fiercely…because people are human, people are real, and everyone’s story matters.

We are joining the community of nearly 250k people walking in hundreds of cities across the country in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.

Our team captain may be Nik, but the real boss of this team is Nik’s daughter (Caitlin’s step-daughter), Skylar Astrid. We want you to keep that in mind. If you go to say, “Nah, we don’t want to support this issue with that team,” keep the true boss in mind–because yes, Nik obviously can’t put up a fight…but the 2-year-old can.

Here’s why we care: Both Nik and Caitlin have experience with mental health struggles. Both Nik and Caitlin love people with mental health struggles. Nik, personally, has survived a suicide attempt. And most importantly…

Our entire team, every single day, looks outside of their immediate social realm and sees others dealing with mental health struggles, thoughts of suicide, or both.

Please help us reach our fundraising goal by donating to a team member. To donate online, please click the donation image at the bottom of this post to travel to our team fundraising page. Then, select “Roster” and then choose one of the team members listed. Once you’re on their page, click “Donate Now.” Donations can only be made to individuals, but the total each participant raises goes toward our team goal.

Remember, mental health struggles are real, are valid. Remember, thoughts of suicide are common–it does not make a person “crazy” or any less of a person. Remember, suicide is a major issue we must all address. Remember, your donation and your involvement helps break down the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide.

All donations are 100% tax deductible and will help bring AFSP one step closer to achieving their bold goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025.

You can also support us by registering to walk with our team – just click the “join our team” button on the fundraising page. Seriously! Click the button! We would love to have you as a member of our team.

Can’t make the walk? No problem–register as a member of our team and help us fundraise. $5,000 is a lofty goal! We definitely need the help.

Can make the walk but don’t want to walk with us? No problem–a lot of our team includes introverts who truly just want to stay in the safety of their own social shell. Be a part of our team and walk to your own beat at the actual event.

Just be part of this with us. You. Are. Loved. You. Matter.

Best and Thank You,

Wild Wiles West


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