Yesterday I completed my first quarter of grad school. I cannot believe it. I never thought this would be something I would be doing. I never wanted to go to grad school.
Discourse: Because I hate school. I am bad at it. I am stupid. My talents are different. I am not an academic.
Truth Story: I am smart and capable of all things. I love learning. I love being in learning environments. I am a good learner. My talents are useful and valid in the academic world. I am a scholar.
And here I am. One quarter behind me. And this is what my face looks like:
Applying and then attending grad school is what badassery looks like in my life.
Badassery: When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, “Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again”- my gut reaction is, “What a badass.”
There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out of their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed. Emotional stoicism is not badassery. Blustery posturing is not badassery. Swagger is not badassery. Perfection is about the furthest thing in the world from badassery.
To me the real person is the person who says, “Our family is really hurting. We could use your support.” And the man who tells his son, “It’s okay to be sad. We all get sad. We just need to talk about it.” And the woman who says, “Our team dropped the ball. We need to stop blaming each other and have some tough conversations about what happened so we can fix it and move forward.” People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses. -Brene Brown, Rising Strong
Wading into our stories is scary. It’s real and takes courage. But that is something we each have: courage. You have that. It is in you. Everything you need is already inside of you. In the following video I offer an invitation and a prompt for wading into your your story. For uncovering your discourse and creating a new narrative. A YOU narrative. A TRUTH story.
This is how I am feeling at the completion of my first quarter of grad school. Disclaimer: Language. Inspiration.
Direct Orders (Rock Out) By Anis Mojgani
You have been given a direct order to rock the **** out.
Rock out like you were just given the last rock and roll record on earth and the minutes are counting down to flames.
Rock out like you just won both showcase showdowns.
Rock out like the streets are empty except for you, your bicycle, and your headphones.
Rock out like your lips, which are placed onto a breakdancing muse with legs that go all the way up.
Rock out like Publishers Clearing House is ringing your front door.
Rock out like you’ll never have to open a textbook again.
Rock out like you get paid to disturb the peace.
Rock out like music is all that you got.
Rock out like you’re standing on a rooftop and the city’s as loud and glowing as a river flowing below you.
Rock out like the plane is going down, and there are 120 people on board, and 121 parachutes.
Rock out like the streets and the books are all on fire and the flames can only be extinguished by doin’ the electric slide.
Rock out like it’s Saturday afternoon and Monday was a national holiday.
Rock out like somebody’s got a barrel pointed at your temple saying ‘Rock out like your life depended on it, fool,‘ because it does.
Rock out like your eyes are fading but you still got your ears. But you don’t know for how long so rock out like 5 o’clock time, meant pop-and-lock time.
Rock out like you got a pants full of tokens and nothing to do but everything.
Rock out like you are the international ski-ball champion of the entire universe.
Rock out like you just escaped an evil orphanage to join a Russian circus.
Rock out like your hero is fallen and you are spinning your limbs until they burst into a burning fire of remembrance.
Rock out like you are enslaved in the south and dancing is all that you have to know who you are.
Rock out like your dead grandfather just came back to take a drive with you in your new car.
Rock out like the table is full. Rock out like the neighbors are away.
Rock out like the walls won’t fall but, ****, you’re going to die trying to make them.
Rock out like the stereo’s volume knob is the figure 8 of infinity on it instead of merely numbers. Rock out like it’s raining outside and you’ve got a girl to run through it with.
Rock out like you’re playing football! Football in the mud and your washing machine is not broken.
Rock out like you threw your window open on your honeymoon because you want the whole world to know what love is.
Rock out like you just got a book published.
Rock out like you just went to your high school reunion to find everyone, even the women, are all overweight and bald, except for the former homecoming queen, who has just been divorced by her impotent husband and who only has eyes for… YOU!
Rock out like you just got a date with Heidi Klum.
Rock out like a shadow of a man passes behind you, drops you to your knees. You’re buckling in sweat, cold metal’s pushed to your forehead, the trigger’s pulled and the gun jams.
Rock out like you got an empty appointment book, and a full tank of gas.
Rock out like Jimi has returned carrying brand new guitar strings.
Rock out like the mangos are in season. Rock out like the record player won’t skip.
Rock out like this was the last weekend, like these were the last words, like you don’t ever want to forget how.
HERE I AM
We all wanted that high school sweetheart
We wanted to be young in the 50s with meatloaves and sock hops and lawns
Lawns so perfect they looked like Clark Gable was kissing them
We wanted to be 13 and alive and meet a girl that was 13 and alive
And walk with her past the grandstands
To sit and hold hands with
To sit and kiss with
To sit and sit with
Like it was something you would miss, but that never was
We once went to bed
Like between the bed sheets was a valley with dinosaurs still breathing
And how we capture these triceratops and brontosauruses
But even they were opened up with the smoke that rose out of the homes and the corners that we once climbed through
The streets and the footballs, which we once threw
The school desks upon, which we once drew
The windows that sat open, through we once flew
Before the outside world of parking spaces and dead friends came flooding on in
And we forgot what we wanted
And we became what we become
Waitresses and bartenders, city employees and temp positions
We are junkies and one kiss poems and we cry the stars
As we write our scars onto dumpsters and electric boxes
Because the only thing that we can hear is our hearts
And the only ones listening are the streets
That the blood that breaths through the letters we leave
And we dream to rise ourselves up out of these burning buildings
But instead we get buried somewhere beneath
Because I know my life is like some high school kids notebook
A high school kid that shuffles back and forth between school and home
Stacking the letters and the pictures too close for anyone outside of his own imagination to read
Because it’s through the ink that his heart beats, that his heart breaths
And we all just wanted to write these notes:
Check if you like me
Check if you don’t
Check if you’ll date me
Check if you won’t
Because we all wanted the love songs to be true
And we did love dinosaurs once
And we wanted the stars to hold our hands
To lick the teeth, to fuck us
But they ended up fucking us
So, let your smile twist
Like my heart dancing precariously on the edge of my fingertips
Staining them like that same high school kid, licking his thoughts
Using his sharpie tip writing
I was here
I was here, mothafucka
And ain’t none of y’all can write that in the spot that I just wrote it in
I’m here, mothafucka, and we all here, mothafucka, and we all mothafuckas, mothafucka
Because every breath I give brings me a second closer to the day that my mother may die
Because every breath I take, takes me a second further from the moment she caught my father’s eye
Because every word I carry is another stone to put into place in the foundation that I’m building
Because the days can erase something that I never saw
What all of us wanted and what none of us got
What we all had and have and what we all forgot
That we all wanted to be something
That we all became something
And it might not be the shit we once though we’d be when we were kids, but something is still something
And like some cats say: something is better than nothing
Feet are smarter than an engine
And dreams are stronger than thighs
And questions are the only answers we need to know that we are alive as I am when I have the mind of a child
Asking, why is 2 + 3 always equal to 5?
Where do people go to when they die?
What made the beauty of the moon?
And the beauty of the sea?
Did that beauty make you?
Did that beauty make me?
Will that make me something?
Will I be something?
Am I something?
And the answer comes: already am, always was, and I still have time to be
SHAKE THE DUST
This is for the fat girls
This is for the little brothers
This is for the schoolyard wimps and the childhood bullies that tormented them
For the former prom queen and for the milk crate ball players
For the nighttime cereal eaters
And for the retired elderly Walmart store front door greeters
Shake the dust
This is for the benches and the people sitting upon them
For the bus drivers who drive a million broken hymns
For the men who have to hold down three jobs simply to hold up their children
For the nighttime schoolers
And for the midnight bikers who are trying to fly
Shake the dust
This is for the two year olds
Who cannot be understood because they speak half English and half God
Shake the dust
For the boys with the beautiful sisters
Shake the dust
For the girls with the brothers who are going crazy
For those gym class wallflowers and the twelve year olds afraid of taking public showers
For the kid who is always late to class because he forgets the combination to his locker
For the girl who loves somebody else
Shake the dust
This is for the hard men who want love but know that it won’t come
For the ones who are forgotten
The ones the amendments do not stand up for
For the ones who are told speak only when you are spoken to
And then are never spoken to
Speak every time you stand so you do not forget yourself
Do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you
That your heart, it beats 900 times every single day
And that there are enough gallons of blood to make everyone of you oceans
Do not settle for letting these waves that settle
And for the dust to collect in your veins
This is for the celibate pedophile who keeps on struggling
For the poetry teachers and for the people who go on vacation alone
For the sweat that drips off of Mick Jaggers’ singing lips
And for the shaking skirt on Tina Turner’s shaking hips
For the heavens and for the hells through which Tina has lived
This is for the tired and for the dreamers
For those families that want to be like the Cleavers with perfectly made dinners
And songs like Wally and the Beaver
This is for the bigots, for the sexists, and for the killers
And for the big house pin sentenced cats becoming redeemers
And for the springtime that somehow seems to show up right after every single winter
This is for everyone of you
Make sure that by the time the fisherman returns you are gone
Because just like the days I burn at both ends
And every time I write, every time I open my eyes
I’m cutting out parts of myself simply to hand them over to you
So shake the dust
And take me with you when you do for none of this has ever been for me
All that pushes and pulls
And pushes and pulls
And pushes and pulls
It pushes for you
So, grab this world by its clothespins
And shake it out again and again
And jump on top and take it for a spin
And when you hop off shake it again
For this is yours, this is yours
Make my words worth it
Make this not just some poem that I write
Not just some poem like just another night that sits heavy above us all
Walk into it, breathe it in, let it crash through the halls of your arms
Like the millions of years of millions poets
Coursing like blood, pumping and pushing
Making you live, shaking the dust
So when the world knocks at your front door
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up
And run forward and far into its widespread, greeting arms
With your hands outstretched before you
Fingertips trembling, though they may be
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
(Lyrics from my favorite song right now, She Used To Be Mine by Sara Bareilles)
If you are meeting me for the first time I will catch you up on my story: Two years ago during this time I was in a relationship with a man (whom I love). This man is not a problem but he has a lot of problems and he took those problems out on me. I am a survivor of domestic violence (I hate those words. I am not sure if I am ready to use them, have them written down. Makes it more real. But it is real. It really happened. It is now part of my story. And so I am going to leave them there. And not erase them. Although I want to. So badly) and I am still in recovery.
During that time in my life, two years ago, everything was stolen from me. I was stolen. Coming out of the abusive relationship, my recovery has been harder for me than the abuse itself.
“It is important that one recognize that loss and grief are not just tied to death. We must consider the many other losses that occur that people must grieve and yet may not be socially acknowledged as a significant loss. When this happens, the griever may feel isolated and alone with his or her grief and the lack of support that often accompany readily acknowledged losses such as a sudden and unexpected deaths.”
When I was in the relationship no one knew what was really going on, including me. And in all honesty -including him (my abuser- I hate referring to him as that:my abuser. But words are important. There is great power in giving things their proper name). Months later, when I was able to see things as they really are/were I called his mom. Oh my gosh. Scariest thing ever. I almost threw-up. I reached out to his mother with the intent of letting her know what happened between her son and I. I wanted to share this with his mother because I felt it was my responsibility to let someone who was permanent in his life know. My biggest fear (and still is today) is that he would harm himself or someone else. I don’t want that on my hands. And so I called his mom. I expressed how much I love her son and am on his side. That I was hoping to meet with her to talk about what happened. She wanted nothing to do with me. Part of me doesn’t blame her. How would I react if someone called to tell me that my son abused them. When I mentioned “abuse” she flat out asked me if I was talking about physical abuse as if any other kind of abuse doesn’t matter. I told her no. Which was a lie. But I was scared and totally intimidated and freaked out. She didn’t ask any more questions or want to hear any more details.
I was so devastated. To this day I try oh-so-very-hard not to judge her. And I wonder if she thinks about me. That day. That phone call. I know I am not a mother, but if I were- I cannot imagine not wanting to know more, so I could help my son, so I could help the woman.
My therapist told me that I deserve a mother-in-law that will listen if I come to her with something important.
My grief is intense. Over the loss of the relationship. The loss of the beautiful man I love. The loss of myself. I wrestle with ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief.
Ambiguous loss: When someone is physically absent but psychologically present (think of a parent in a nursing home, a military personal on deployment, a child in a coma, a father in prison, a former spouse in a divorce). Ambiguous loss can also be the opposite: Someone who is physically present but psychologically absent (someone with mental illness, TBI, depression, struggling with addictions).
My guy on a Buffalo is still alive but there is no contact. He is not physically in my life. But he haunts my days with dangerous flashbacks and also sweet longings of when things were “good.”
And I know many of the people I love have felt the loss of me over the past two years. I am physically here but often my struggles of depression and PTSD that accompany my recovery have made me psychologically absent. I am sorry for that. I wish I could change things. I am working intentionally on my healing every day. I am coming back, slowly. But not as the same girl I was before.
“Ambiguous loss is difficult because there can be confusion and difficulty identifying the problem. There may be uncertainty which prevents people from adjusting to the ambiguity of their loss. People may be denied the rituals that ordinarily support a defined loss.”
Disenfranchised grief: A loss that cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially supported. There are three kinds of disenfranchised grief: 1. Relationships that are not recognized or socially sanctioned (think the gay community, people who have abortions, those who give a child up for adoption, affair partners). 2. The loss is not recognized as significant (miscarriage, pet loss, employees at veterinarian offices, hospital caregivers, any type of caregiver, me and my abusive ex-boyfriend). 3.The griever is not recognized
I love my abusive ex-boyfriend. To this day. I love him. I miss him. I am grieving him. I have been asked how I can be so upset over the loss of someone who did terrible awful things to me. And that is a legit question. How can I? And how can I not? I grieve the loss of who he was to me. The loss of his own mental health. The loss of the relationship. The future we could have had. The loss of his dog (my dog). Oh how I miss that sweet animal. I miss who I was with him. I miss who I was before him. I miss my naivety. My innocence. My easily trusting nature. I miss and I grieve. Time has made things different. And in many ways I am healing. But today I am grieving.
She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine
(Lyrics from my favorite song right now, She Used To Be Mine by Sara Bareilles)
Imperfect, good, hard, broken, messy, kind, lonely, mixed-up, beautiful, gone. These are all words I use to describe myself right now. They are honest words. They are words that I own. They are words that I am in love with. Recovering, redefining, recreating myself and who I am becoming is my joy, my annoyance, my self-care, my crazy and my greatest love right now. Who I am. Right now. Is my greatest love.
Not because I am so awesome (cause I am and not all at the same time)… but because I accept her. Me. Nicole.
Over the last six months my life has drastically changed. Let me tell you the story. Well, part of the story.
Every April my mother and I take our annual trip to the Provo, Utah to attend something that is called Women’s Conference. It is pretty much the bomb.com and where you want to be. It is two intense spirit-filled days. It is held on the campus of Brigham Young University (you know, I always have to pause and think about how to spell ‘Brigham” – Its a tough name for me). All day long classes are held on any and every topic imaginable and you pick and choose what you go to. It is fabulous. My mother and I look forward to going every year. Its our time.
When we were there last April (of 2014) we meet up with my bestie TROY (love you man) who at the time was preparing for graduate school. Troy asked me if I would ever go back to school. My response was a direct (hellllll) NO. And lets talk about “back” to school. At this point I didn’t even have my bacholors (see, just spelled that one wrong. Another tough word. Actually had to google it) BACHELOR degree (another story).
Then I heard myself say, “But if I diiIiid… I would return for a masters in divinity and become a chaplain.” Cause I have that all figured out?? Excuse me, what is a chaplain??
Our lovely mother/daughter trip came to an end and I flew back to Colorado.
So I was sitting in therapy -because I be all about that life (you’re welcome)- telling my therapist about my trip and the conversation with Troy and he STOPS me.
“Why don’t you go back to school?”
“uhhh. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I,J,K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, should I continue?….”
“Nicole, correct me if I am wrong, but those all sound like fears. If it is fear stopping you from going back to school that is something we can work with. We can work through your fears.”
So I started to look into it. You know, on the internet. Where it’s safe. The more I researched the more excited I became. I made some calls. Visited some schools and applied. There is so much more to this story that will become a another blog post but here is where I am today:
At the completion of my first semester of GRAD school. What!? What!?
I am just as imperfect, good, hard, broken, messy, kind, lonely, mixed-up, beautiful, and some what gone. But I am liking the sweet turn my life has taken. I am in a beautiful -and still challenging- place. But I am liking it. I am liking who I am becoming. I think she is beautiful. I am proud of her. I still think she be cray, but in the best and messiest of ways.
(the evolution of my style in the past 3 months. –Don’t worry Rachel, my hair will be “normal” by the time your wedding comes. Ps. I cannot wait! You are getting married!)
Do you ever have goals for yourself but you can’t put them into words? You don’t quite know what they are even. But they are living inside of you. Just starting to breathe. That is where I have been at for a few days. I know a change of mind is coming. A paradigm shift. Right now it is a vessel sailing far off in the distance. But I can see it, there on the horizon. I am the harbor that will be welcoming it home. I am excited to see what she looks like. How long she will stay. How she will change me.
I turned 29 this past week. I love birthdays and I love getting older. No problem. But over the past few years I have spent many nights weeping over how I feel I have not accomplished anything in my life. I am now 29 and I have nothing to show for it. I do not have a degree or career. I do not have any savings just a lot of debt. I do not have the love of a good man, no children. I do not own anything of value. I am not super smart or play an instrument well. No hidden talent.
Today I jumped out of a plane. Which turned out not to be a big deal. Pretty normal feeling actually. On the way home I was listening to that Tim McGraw song, Live Like You were Dying, and I realized I have done some of this stuff. I have gone skydiving. Hiked in the Rockies. I pulled the shoot to let the cattle out into the ring. I have gone off-roading a number of times. Rock climbed. I have four-wheeled in the backcountry of Wyoming. I have gone on road trips by myself and with friends. I have hiked a glacier in Alaska. Seen shows on Broadway. Performed on a number of stages. I have done stand-up. Sang the national anthem at college games. Flown a plane. Eaten horse and other gross stuff. Lived in a tent for a total of a year. Spent wonderful days with wonderful dogs. Went on an 18 month missions trip. Worked at a homeless shelter for 9 months. . I have fallen head-over-heels in love. I have loved someone with that pure unconditional kind of love too. I have helped to raise some beautiful children. Now none of these things are special or unique. But remembering and reflecting makes me realize that I do indeed live a full life. And to the world I still have not accomplished much. And the truth is I will probably never have nothing to show. But I think what really matters is how did I love? Did I forgive? How did I start and end each day?
Five years ago today. I cried on the drive home from work. I miss you so…
Grandma, i don’t know what to do. My life is such a mess. I am a mess. I am so broken inside and out. They say that time heals but I do not believe that. Jesus heals but time… Things haven’t gotten better. I have just gotten used to feeling dead inside, to everything falling apart, to having everything stolen. I have done nothing in these five years that you have been gone. Haven’t finished a thing I have started. I have a really hard time believing that good things will happen for me any more. I don’t believe that a good man will love me enough. I don’t believe I will ever have my own family. No one has ever wanted me. No one sure as hell will want me now. Supposedly these thoughts are just the depression talking but I don’t even care. At this stage I do not even want help. I just want out. I hate that I have to stay here in Colorado. I hate that I can’t just pick up and leave. I hate that you are not here because I would just come to you.
I love you Grandma. I am sorry I am not in a better place on this special day.
I cannot tell you how healing writing has been to me over these past two weeks. If you haven’t tried writing, you should. Just writing in a journal or on your computer. I have been writing in a new blog. And it has been probably the most truthful raw writing I have ever done. It has also been very painful and yet freeing at the same time.
I am grateful for a mind that can think and hands that can write. I am grateful for prayer and a God who listens. I am grateful for grief and the goodness that comes when I allow myself to fully feel it.
Today I give myself permission to have hard moments when I feel like I can’t breathe, like I am chocking, dying. Moments when I crumble, fall apart, breakdown. Moments when I hate myself and want to give up, give in, isolate, scream, cry and beg for release.
I also give myself permission to show myself love by breathing deeply and choosing to rise and reach out. To call upon my war council. To choose faith. To choose to believe that one day a good man will love me, want me and treat me not only the way I deserve to be treated but better than I deserve. A man that will not love me in spite of my struggles and weaknesses but because of them. I give myself permission to believe that I am worthy of such love – BECAUSE I AM.
Today Sister Clarke and I are up in Pine. Sister Clarke is play How Great Thou Art on the violin in the Pine ward today. I am so happy to be a missionary today. I love coming up to Pine. The drive is beautiful. And the town of Pine is so cute! I want my family to come up here after the mission to see this beautiful place and to meet the people.
Roger is here! He came to church! Oh my heart is full! Please God, please let him enjoy church. Please help him to feel the spirit! Please help him to have a strong desire to continue to come to church. I know you are working changes in his heart. Please work miracles in this man’s life! I know You want to bless him. Please help him to recognize how You are blessing him for coming to church and keeping the commandments. Please be with the speakers and teachers that they may say what you would have them say. Thank you so much for Roger being here. Roger is one of my favorite people. Roger Buchanan is an artist. Dad would love his art. They could spend so much time talking about art. I want dad to meet Roger. Roger hasn’t been to church in 50 years…until today. Roger likes to argue with us over the mission rules (like not going in his house or riding in his truck). He gets mad and likes to test us. Its ok though. I love Roger. I want him to be able to go through the temple. He is such a special person. He is in his 60s. Roger talks about child abandonment A LOT. He has some issues with that. He is very strong-willed but he has a soft heart. When Sister Clarke and I sing to Roger he cries. I love this man. You can see God working in this man. It is so beautiful and wonderful.
Yesterday I met Sister Butler. She finished her mission and is at BYU. She spent a semester in the Jerusalem Center. That would be so cool. I would would love to do that- go to Israel.
I hope Roy went to church in Payson today! I really hope so. He needs it so much.
So Thursday we were up in Pine and we went to Debbie England’s home for dinner. She lives deep down through the mountains. You take a dirt road with a lot of pin needle turns to get there. It was so beautiful and I was thinking about what kind of life I want. And I had what I am going to call a vision or a dream. It was of me and my husband driving in a vehicle, traveling in the setting sun, evening light. And I was reading the Ensign. We were feeling such peace. We were looking at each other with love in our eyes. It was so lovely. Heavenly Father, help me to become the woman you want me to be and my husband the man you want him to be. Please help me to marry the right man. The one that I should. The one you want me to.
Heavenly Father, I want to travel a lot. I really, truly want to travel the world and experience all that you have created and all the different beautiful cultures of Thy children. Is this a worthy desire? I want to make this happen in my life. I want to marry a man with the same desires and real intent.