Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Write Towards Your Fear

 I fear {in no particular order}:

- the dark
- spiders
-being kidnapped
-demons {even though I don't believe in them...mostly}
-some social situations {mostly because I also fear...}
-unknowingly offending someone

The last is a big one. I thought I was depressed once when I was 12 or 13. It was a dark, rainy afternoon. I looked out the window of my mom's car and said, "this is just so depressing."

She sarcastically replied, "yeah. So depressing."

I decided maybe I wasn't depressed after all.

Two years ago {almost three}, I found out that what I thought was depression wasn't the half of it. Waking up every morning feeling like my body was being pulled to pieces. Showing up to work unshowered wearing dingy gray yoga pants. Feeling the pull of the steering wheel as I drove, quickly, wondering what it would feel like to die. Sobbing in the shower so nobody could hear how sad I felt and I couldn't tell how many tears were trickling down the drain, mixing with the hot water.  That  was what I was like on Depression. I wanted to die. Every. Single. Day. for eight months I wanted to die.

The worst {if there is a worst}, was that the very thing that induced my depression was the very thing my parents thought would "fix" me. Were they in denial? Did they somehow think that if they suggested enough church callings and "choosing the right" my rain clouds would go away? Though they would voice their disappointments in terms of faith: "led astray," "tempted," "faithless," "empty of The Spirit," The Church, not even faith, was the answer. The Church is Supreme and when I became depressed at that time, they suspected it was because I had "lost" The Spirit. Discovering the lies their religion {and what was mine} was built on and turning away {so. far. away.} crushed me and them.

But, the only spirit I was in danger of losing was my own.

{If you believe in souls that is.}

- Emily

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Brief History of the Hug

 Around the globe, there are many complex words and phrases to describe

the act of hugging. The English language uses words like embrace, squeeze, cuddle,

snuggle, love, xoxo. In Punjabi, two friends meet and jhappi, casually embrace. In

Hindi one may pyaar karna, affectionately and lovingly embrace, or paas rakhna,

hug, or aalingan, cuddle. In Italian, requesting a hug slides (find a better word)

musically together into abbracciami. Despite the many ways of describing physical

affection, or perhaps in an effort to better capture the act of hugging, the hug still

eludes our understanding; but not for a lack of trying.

In an attempt to understand the nature of physical affection and love, or as

psychologists of the 20th century called it, attachment, Harry F. Harlow and a group

of rhesus monkeys set out on an experiment in 1958. What he discovered was

ground breaking: baby monkeys like touch. Even more importantly, their desire

for touch and comfort contact is greater than their desire for food. Today, this

might not seem exciting or even innovative, but at the time, it contradicted what

science figured was a universal truth: being provided for with physical needs was

more important than providing for emotional needs. In order to prove this, Harlow

created two “monkey mothers.” One, made of wire mesh, fed the baby. The other, a

soft-terrycloth mother provided comfort and warmth. The babies overwhelmingly

preferred the soft mother. They spent the majority of their time with her. They

cuddled with her, they explored their environment more when she was around and

ran to her when they were afraid. They wanted little to do with the cold hearted

wire mother, even though she provided them with food. The explanation was

simple: touch is important.

We as humans are hardwired to the importance of touch. There are more

than 3,000 receptors for touch in each fingertip alone. When someone pats us on

the back or gives us a hug, the reactions throughout our body are amazing. Trust

promoting chemicals flood the body. Stress related parts of the brain slow down.

Parts of the brain involved with connection light up. Our immune system receives a

boost. Studies show warm touch encourages premature babies to grow and gain

weight and reduces the risk of depression in older patients suffering with

Alzheimer’s disease. A little touch goes a long way.

Like Mr. Harlow, my grandfather is a doctor. Or, more specifically, he has a

PhD. Educated at Harvard and Yale, he has an IQ well above that of a “normal”

person or even a “smart” person. Despite all this knowledge, he didn’t know

about Harlow and his monkeys or the 3,000 receptors in his fingertips. If he did,

perhaps he didn’t care. More interested in controlling his family’s viewing habits

by padlocking the TV set in the living room, my grandfather wasn’t someone a

small child could call Daddy. My dad once asked his mother if he could trade dads

with the neighbor boys because, “Mr. Anderson next door is nicer and more fun.” My

grandfather never addressed my dad with affection. Never once said “I love you.”

My grandmother tried to make up for this, doing everything she could physically do

for my dad, but something was missing, despite her best efforts.

Determined to never be like his father, my dad tried to make up for this lack

of affection when he started his own family. Rotten to the core, I, at two, deterred

his best efforts by screaming, “He’s looking at me! He’s looking at me!” during

dinner. My mom, ever the emotional pragmatist, retorted with, “He’s your dad. He

can look at you.” I moved past my rotten phase but my family never exactly moved

into a hugging one. Every night before I went to sleep as a little girl, my dad would

hug me and repeat the same story to me: Once upon a time in a far away land…there

lived a beautiful princess with long brown… Hair. That was my part. And beautiful

blue… Eyes. And a button of a ….Nose. Only now do I learn that this story ended in

me marrying a handsome prince in a beautiful Temple. It’s important to have a goal.

Never missing one of my piano recitals, attending my sister’s yearly dance

recital, patiently teaching me how to ruin his car and reading all of my stories, my

dad makes an effort to make sure we all feel loved. Though my dad tells us he loves

us before bed and as I leave for work each day, my 14 year old, popular sister yells,

“love you,” but we rarely hug. As I left each fall to go back to college or my parents

leave to go on vacation, we always embrace. But, it’s a goodbye. A Make Good

Choices! We’ll Miss You. Or a Have Fun in Greece! Don’t Die on RyanAir!

When I first mention I don’t come from a hugging family, it confuses my

boyfriend. From our first meeting, we never had a problem with affection. We

first met in Italy. Hoping to experience something new, I packed up for a summer

in Italy. I tried to convince myself that the only men I was interested in meeting

were Titian, Caravaggio and Michelangelo. Embracing is Italian heritage; Jared

also packed up for a summer in Italy. I crossed the cool foyer on the bottom floor

of our University’s villa. Pausing outside my friend Tyler’s door, I framed myself,

though I’m no Botticelli, more of a Fragonard or an AC Cobra. But, I must have made

an impression. Steven came to the door. Lifting my brows, my eyes flit across the

room to the boy at the desk.

Months later, we snuck out the solid door, hoping to avoid the furtive looks

of our classmates. The black button down shirt seen only at the first banquet

dinner, the black high heels pulled out for more than Going-Out-with-the-Girls. Our

classmates bang though the door. “You guys are going out? It's about time.” So

much for not being noticed.

We wandered the cobblestone streets together, getting lost. We bump into

more students, who, after relating their exploits throughout the city, admonish us to

get drunk and have great sex. Laughing, we gracefully excused ourselves; we’re

getting a little hungry, thanks. Michael had the address, double-checked it even and

assured me dinner was “Just past the train station.” The train station got farther

and father away, faded into gray, brown and green chiaroscuro. I tilted my head,

teasing, pushed on his arm, grabbing at him when I felt a little unsteady.

Cobblestones in high heels are hard, even sober.

He helped me climb over the edge of the bridge to sit on the stone buttress,

jutting out into the smooth river. The lights from the shops glowed, shimmered into

golden pools on the water; the moss-covered stone cold beneath our feet. The night

got later and later. The sounds of students drinking, bottles clanking – andiamo! –

mixed with pinpricks of stars. We sat laughing, sliding closer to each other to avoid

the cold. Michael pulled me in closer, wrapping me up in his shirt to stay warm

abbracciami!. We broke off pieces of the buttresses and scratched our names into

the hard stone. Carving out something new. Something different. Pietra Serena.

Almost a year later, baking in the hot Florida sunshine, Michael and I are

dressed in our best outfits. Separating to dress and meet our guests, we now stand

in between rows of chairs after being draped with well wishes and heavy flower leis

from each of our families. He spent hours that morning wrestling with an iron

trying to smooth the wrinkles from his blue and white shirt and slacks. Ever

attempting to stay lady-like, I’m dressed in a little black dress, pearls and heels.

“Meet after the ceremony, behind the bleachers,” Michael says. “I’ll call you.” Covered

in identical, swishing black robes and too small hats, we take our seats in our rows

and are herded to graduate, sheep, though we are told we are individuals. Special.

Unique. Michael and I are nervous. Our families are meeting for the first time after

Logical, and graduating in Biological Psychology, Michael has heard of

Harlow and his monkeys. He knows the somatosensory system, which picks up

the sensations of the body and its movement, includes many touch receptors

including those for pressure, cold, warmth and pain. He knows, and can accurately

pronounce, the names of the chemicals that brain releases with a pat on the back, a

hug…a kiss. Later, the lack of hugs continues to confuse him.

After many phone calls, we reunite, families in tow. Michael’s family is

beaming, so proud of the family’s first college graduate. Hugs all around. Pictures.

Chaos. Our parents meet, exchange greetings. They seem to like each other.

Nick and Karen congratulate me, smiling. John outstretches his hands to me,

“congratulations!” I lean in and shake his hand. “Thank you.”

“Why didn’t you hug him?”Michael asks. “He asked me if you don’t like him.”

I’m crushed. “I just…you know. My family isn’t huggy.” I shrug like it isn’t a big

deal. My family has agreed, we just aren’t that kind. “I thought he didn’t want to

hug me?” I question. “Babe,” Michael replies. “You know my family.”

Like my grandfather, Michael’s grandfather wasn’t a model of fatherly affection

either. He wasn’t the most present of fathers. Michael’s dad is not like this. Like my

dad, he has made an effort to be present in his children’s lives, making sure they feel

loved. Wanted. Needed. But his family hugs. Michael’s dad has hugged me many

times. The first time I met him, I hopped off a plane fresh from Italy. Never having

met the family, not knowing a thing about me, they welcomed me and embraced me.

It becomes a running joke, my inability to hug. Why my personal space is

bigger and louder than all the Cristoforous' combined. I see Nick a few months later as I

visit Michael’s family. I jump out of the truck. Hug Nick. The family laughs. I know

Michael has repeated the conversation we had to Nick and Nick knows Michael has

repeated his conversation to me. So, we hug and they laugh and it’s nice to have a

family who expects me to hug them – no strings attached. Though it will take some

getting used to.

- Emily

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Red Flag of Avoidance

I thought about writing on my "real" blog, but I've found myself increasingly shying away from it because:

1. I feel like I've created a "persona" {though I'm not a well-known one by any means} and to stray from my usual topics would be strange.
2. People I know {in real life even!} read it and I feel odd knowing that. Like I can't actually write what I mean if someone I know will be reading my writing.
3. I work in Social Media and I just get tired of social media-ing all the time. It's draining in a way.

So, I turn to this page where I am anonymous and can share my "deeper" thoughts.


My writing teacher {I am no longer taking writing classes, but she was inspiring and I think about her advice all the time}, talked a lot about the Red Flag of Avoidance i.e. she can tell when a writer is writing around an issue or specifically leaving it out because they don't want to address it.

Guess who triggered her Red Flag of Avoidance more than any other writer?

Avoidance. It's what I do best. Ignore it. Maybe it will go away. Maybe it will slip through my fingers like sand, blending into the thousand other grains and become indistinguishable among all the other things I have to deal with.

Which is how a lot of Mormons deal with their problems. I told my family I thought their religion was a big fucking lie. We didn't talk for eight months and then...everything was fine. My sister ignored my engagement, hoping it would go away {not happening} and instead she went away to the MTC. The ultimate location in reality avoidance! Six weeks here and we will empty your soul and replace it with a handcrafted Mormon soul. All righteous, all the time. {And kids seats are still just five bucks!}

And when she wasn't avoiding me? What did she deign to talk to me about? How she was preparing for her mission. How she was very excited to go. How she despised her pregnant roommate {yet brought her to live with my parents...}. Her. Her. Her. All the time avoiding ME.

I still don't understand how she can't see that it isn't right for her to expect support from me in whatever she does and not return the same feelings for me.

I stand by my statement I made earlier to my parents. Her mission is a big fucking lie. And yet, I knew she was excited and listened to her.

And yet, she avoided me.

She can't hear about my life, my fiance, the family I'm building here because it doesn't fit with her life. But. Oh. I can hear about her life, her problems, her "scholarly" religious work because she's "right."

Do I trigger her Red Flag of Avoidance? Does she look at my life and wonder how I can be happy? Does she think of me other than to disown me, condemn me, control me?

As much as I told her that her sadness about me leaving The Church are her own fault, I can't help but feel sad for her jumping into something that is such a waste of time and harmful. She will come out an empty shell filled with nonsense and even more avoidance of truth, tolerance and love.

I read a quote today that triggered my own Red Flag of Avoidance {though only as it related specifically to avoiding writing this!}:

"Are you paralyzed with fear? That's a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tell us what we have to do. Remember our Rule of Thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more we can be sure we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul."
                                                                                           - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

And I thought: Maybe she is afraid of me. Maybe she sees that I have not destroyed my life. How I'm happier, stronger, smarter, moving forward. Afraid, but growing. Maybe she looks at her own life and is afraid.

And then I thought: No.

She isn't interested in growth or change or increased knowledge or increased tolerance. She isn't inspired by my life, unless she looks at it as a road map of exactly what not to do. She is looking for more reasons why she is right and others are wrong. She isn't going on her mission because of her self-doubt or fear or Resistance.

She avoids growth, change or Resistance. All Red Flags of Avoidance are further avoided.

Only because she is right. The Church is Right.

Fear is to be avoided. Fear means you are wrong. Fear means you must grow, resist and change. Search.

You can never be afraid because you can never be wrong.

- Emily

Saturday, December 10, 2011

They're Mad Because They Think We've Won


I talked to my boyfriend's family last night on Skype. They're really fantastic and amazing people. We talked about my family and how they will react when I go home to see them in January. I told them I wasn't sure how my family would react, but I definitely wanted to avoid having another Sit-Down-Dragged-Out fight where my family forces me to explain myself. I feel like the situation is clear: I left Utah to live with my boyfriend and guess what? I'm not coming back.

My boyfriend's Dad asked how I was going to deal with my Mom. I haven't talked to her in eight months. Despite emailing my family through the family email, asking my dad every time he calls how she is, offering to help her with any projects since she's stresses out because of church {surprise}, letting her know when I'll be Skyping the family so she could be around and emailing her directly, she just ignores me. The one time she was around when I Skyped my Dad for his birthday, she refused to talk directly to me and addressed all questions to my dad to ask me.

"Why is she still mad?" his Dad asked.

"She's a very stubborn woman."

"I think she's mad because she feels like she lost. And we won. Well, not "won." But, you like us and you're not like them anymore. They've "lost." And she doesn't like that."

So here I am. In the "Lost" category.

Boyfriend and I tried explaining that while things might get better, every failure, every struggle, everything that ever goes wrong is going to be because we aren't Mormon. His mom thought that was ridiculous. How could anyone think that?

That's just the way it is.

No matter how much I win in life...

To them

I'm always lost.

- Emily

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Be an Adult


When B and I started to discuss medical school and moving I was slightly horrified. That is, I basically had a nervous breakdown. It took a long, hard year of evaluating and discussing and {I'm not going to lie} drama, to get me here.

As was expected there were plenty of nay-sayers. Everyone was {naturally and, I would like to think, lovingly} concerned and offered their own opinions and advice. And I mean every. one. It was ahard choice, but one I'm ultimately extremely proud of and happy with. While I know these two years of medical school aren't The Big Picture of Life as a Doctor's Significant Other and my experience is completely unique, the worries that I {and others} had turned out to be just that -- worries. Not to discount their legitimate concerns {or to say neener-neener-neener}and obviously each couple, school and family is different, but after almost six months on the Island, I want to address those worries and -most of all- say: Make your own choices. Own up to them. Listen to others' advice, but make the choice you feel comfortable with. It makes you an adult. Trust me. I'm 23 years old. And I know everything

#1. You'll never see B. 
Ha. Ha. Hahahahahahahaha. While most ladies I know have husbands that study at school, B studies at home. So, I see him more than I ever have. I know this will change but for now we just enjoy it.

#2. B will be too busy to hang out with you. 
is very busy. And he does work very hard. But, he's not a jerk and we do occasionally get out of the house and do something that isn't sitting next to each other reading books. He knows when to have fun too. And by occasionally I mean pretty often.

#3. You'll be a distraction.
Thanks. I think I'm not a distraction. And so do B's grades, test scores, Honor Society Membership and Dean's List awards. I try not to be a pain in the ass. I want B to do well!!

#4. You'll be so bored. 
Hello. Beach. Dog. Island. Writing. Reading. Friends. Yes, there are times I get antsy, but I'm rarely so. miserably. BORED.

#5. What about getting a job? Money? Do you want  to be a mooch? 
Luckily, I have a writing job online. I also work on campus once a week. It's not a whole, whole bunch of money, but it does help. And I do all the regular stuff a "Housewife" would do. Laundry, Groceries, Dishes, Lunch and Dinner, Cleaning the Things...B helps too {obviously}, but if I can help him study a little better because he doesn't have to do laundry or make dinner or whatever, I'm happy to. This also falls under Not Being a Distraction and Not Being Bored. Also falls under Generally Having a Successful Relationship. Give and Take people.

#6. You don't have any friends at B's medical school.
B's school has an excellent Spouses Org where I've made friends!

#7. What if you hate it?
To which B always said, "What if you love it???" Remember what I said about being an adult? Make your own choices and live with the consequences. I could have hated any number of things I decided to do with my life. But, that's not a reason not to do something. Decide for yourself whether the risks are worth it. Happily, I love it here. Not that it's always perfect.

But it's definitely, definitely always worth it.
- Emily

Friday, August 12, 2011


Hello all!

As most of you have experienced, when times are tough, the tough get going and when times are easy...I don't blog as much.

The island life has been treating me right. Y'all I have friends! White friends, Latina friends, Mormon friends, Indian friends, Med. Student friends, Southern friends, Chinese friends, Christian friends, Drunk friends and (as always lol) Pregnant or Getting Married friends.

Friends who like wine, friends who like beer.
Friends who bake and watch The Bachlorette and Sex and the City (shudder), friends who cut up dead bodies with hack saws (shudder).

Every day is beautiful and warm and sunny. It's not always easy (mostly) taking care of the house by myself or cooking every day. It's not always easy entertaining myself while B studies NON-STOP.

But it's great.

I made the right choice.

- Emily

Sunday, June 5, 2011

About a Million Ideas...

WERE floating around in my head, waiting to be written.

And then.

Oh, and then.

I got a viral infection from the kids I tutor.

Which has subsequently turned into ( I think) a Strep Infection From Hell.

I now know what I would look like on steroids.

Thanks lymph nodes. You're huge and feel like marbles. Awesome. I can feel you on my neck and in between my legs.

The weird thing is, I almost felt myself wanting a blessing. Even though nobody I know here has "The Power." Even though it means nothing, and would mean nothing, it's nice to...what? Know somebody is thinking of you? That they're hoping you get better?

When I was about 11 years old, I had a nasty case of the stomach flu. I laid on the couch clutching my stomach almost in tears. I hate throwing up and I hate stomach pain. I remember reading some story, probably in The Friend, about a girl who was sick and asked her dad for a blessing.

I begged my dad to come give me a blessing, knowing that it would make me feel better.

Guess what?

It didn't.

So, y'all, send your thoughts my way. If my lymph nodes get smaller, you'll know I got them.

If they don't, well the mail here on this island is delayed all the time. :)

- Emily


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...