Wings

By- Traci Taylor
August 2016

From the edge of the mountain
overlooking the landscape
skyscrapers of failure appear

Suddenly shrunk by fear
the dream is evaporated
by a mindset

To rise, is to climb
discovering the path back upward
the stepping stones to not give up

Breathing in what lies before
exhaling the cynicism
of chances not taken

Spreading wings to vulnerability
that self-love will take flight
and fear will not succumb the grail

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Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Self-Love

**Note from the author: This is the end of a series I never thought I would be able to conclude properly. When I first began writing LTBV I was at an extremely low and vulnerable part of my life (that was almost a year ago to date). I re-wrote this particular last piece over and over and over again for the past couple of months. I just wasn’t in love with the words enough to post them, and considering this topic it didn’t seem right to publish something I couldn’t stand behind. Never have I felt more exposed with my writing, and never have I have been in love with something I have written more than each topic in this series. Here’s to the readers out there I hope you now feel like you have a shoulder to lean on with the words I have written.

By Traci Taylor
September 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

As summer winds down and my favorite season of the year approaches the feeling of fear overwhelms me instead of the usual joy of anticipation for autumn. This time last year I was in deep with depression, nearing the end of a relationship with a person that was my absolute best friend, and in turn fighting a losing battle with alcohol abuse. It was as if my world was crumbling around me without any real exit strategy for survival. I had hit a rock bottom that I seemingly couldn’t get out of without just throwing in the towel. After my relationship officially ended that second week in October I lost myself in helplessness and made an end all choice that I am grateful now I failed at attempting.

I approached the next day thankful to still be alive and decided it was time to start loving myself instead of loathing myself. Somewhere in that almost tragic wakeup call I became aware that drinking needed to come to a halt and I needed to begin living a healthier, happier lifestyle. I started a new job (left the one that was adding to my misery), got sober from alcohol for 8 months, and began writing this series (Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable) that is finally coming to a conclusion with the topic of “Self-Love”.

Sobriety was far from the easiest thing I have done in my quarter century existence on this planet, but in the same thought one of the most self-rewarding accomplishments. Through abstaining from alcohol I learned the importance of self-love and relearned what genuine happiness feels like. I know I have come a long way over the past year, but the hardest part of it all is being aware that this time of year will stick with me for my lifespan- it just depends on how I choose to fight through it. Everything does happen for a reason, and I believe my existence is proof of that.

Making sure self-love was a part of my everyday routine first started with self-care which meant beginning therapy. The best part of being able to talk to an educated individual who has no prior knowledge of your struggle is how rewarding it feels after the hour is up. I recall a day after one of my sessions where I was walking home and looked up to this gorgeous bundle of trees with leaves of golden browns, yellows, and reds. A sudden smile spread over my face with gratitude that ensured me I still have a long journey ahead of me. It was then that I felt an abundance of love for myself and for all of the life experiences I had yet to accomplish.

When winter started creeping around the corner, life got a tad bumpy again. The new restaurant I had been working at was reaching point of closing and I was weeks away from being unemployed. Needless to say I was beginning to feel that sense of helplessness again. Just when I was as stressed out about life falling apart at the seams, I got luckier than I ever fathomed was possible. Part of me still believes what happened next was one of the reasons I survived that day last October. For every day I chose to not give up on myself, I was about to experience the answer as to why.

As a kid it is hard to believe that everything happens for a reason, and that every difficult task life throws your way is for a better purpose. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones that had a childhood painted with a white picket fence of a happy family or a yellow brick road to success. Like the majority of peers in my generation I got by with finding the strength within myself despite surrounding circumstances. It is simple to ponder the thoughts of the “grass is greener on the other side” but what is more self-satisfying (in my opinion) is being at the top of the hill after the climb when you thought you would never make it from the start. Self-love is about knowing I can get to the top as long as I choose to trust that I am able to. If I have gained one thing thus far in life, it is that reassurance. If I didn’t have that last winter, I wouldn’t have the opportunity that was about to come my way or what I like to refer to as my “top of the hill”.

I had been unemployed (restaurant industry isn’t known for its job security) for over a month and a half after the restaurant I work at closed New Year’s Eve. Constantly applying to jobs, getting interviews, but no real luck until I got the phone call I never thought would come. During my numerous amounts of job applications I decided to randomly apply to a job as a lacrosse goalie coach at a well-known private school in Philadelphia (a sport I once adored and missed dearly). To my surprise I got a call back weeks later, interviewed, and was eventually hired. Transitioning from athlete to coach was quite the obstacle at first, but it is one that I quickly learned to fall in love with. It was the change of perspective on life that I needed, and I believe the opportunity came into my life at that time for a distinct reason. Similar to the reward I get from writing (sharing my voice in hopes of helping others), coaching does that much more by mentoring future leaders through a mutual appreciation for a beloved sport. Being on the other side of the sideline unravels the big picture that the learning process never stops, not even if you are the coach (or teacher).

Each morning I wake up I no longer crave the sunset, but am now appreciative of the pale blues and fiery pinks of the sunrise. I am aware that not every day will be without a struggle, but with every day there is a lesson to learn. The greatest lesson over this past year has been accepting that I am only human, and I am allowed to have faults as long as I remember to love myself regardless. It’s hard to feel a nagging grey cloud of depression surrounding you and still try to believe that you deserve unconditional love. Sometimes, in those moments, your greatest accomplishment may be getting through the day (I’ve been there- it is valid). Just remember it may not get better tomorrow, but it will (I promise) get better at some point. When that day comes you will be so thankful you made it this far. Not a day goes by that I don’t ponder what life would be like had I not made it past that second week in October last year. Everything that I have become so grateful for over these 12 months would not exist. I used to think being a hopeless romantic was believing in finding the end all love, but really the greatest love of all is self-love. Once you have that, everything else will fall into place.

Standing Strong

By- Traci Taylor
March 2015

As the days go by I’ve learned not to run.
Breath in the present and stand firm,
don’t let a spectator steer your fate.

Life may not be forever sunny-
There is no ultimate promise of happiness.
Looking within yourself and discovering the will to fight.

Becoming your own reason to smile
That is the most rewarding way to live.
Stop letting the naysayers tear you a part.

Today is not tomorrow –
step by step, day by day.
Learn to not become overwhelmed.

As children strangers can become friends,
when we grow friends may turn into strangers.
Time seems simpler when we close our eyes and learn to trust ourselves.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Staying Positive

**Note from the author:With the end of this series almost coming to a close I was finding it more and more difficult to pinpoint topics to write about. This week I wrote about remaining positive, because lately that’s all I’ve been feeling (along with endless gratitude). The end of last year was a difficult one for me, and I’ve made a significant transition in my life in the the way I live it. As we grow older it is easy to forget how happy and hopeful we once were. I write this for your consideration to reminiscence back to a time when perhaps it seemed easier to believe in endless happiness & cynicism wasn’t so prominent. 
By- Traci Taylor
March 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

Not very long ago, five months or so, there was a time where I didn’t think I could make it through the day, and deep inside I hoped that I wouldn’t. To many people I appeared happy, but that was far from the truth. I found it difficult to stay positive. Back in October I would have never imagined my life would turn completely around and I would be where I am currently (constantly surrounded by positive energy). Perhaps if I had known what the future held I would have had a better outlook on things, but that’s easier to consider now that life is more desirable.

One of my favorite writers J.D. Salinger once said, “I’ve survived a lot of things, and I’ll probably survive this.” In certain moments it can prove hard to be able to remain upbeat, but being able to hold out for hope that things will eventually get better tends to make it easier.

Without a doubt there is truth to the fact that the only person responsible for the mood you are in is yourself. It is all in the mindset you put yourself in. Sometimes I know it is tough to talk yourself out of a dark place, but once you do life seems tremendously brighter. I was lucky back in October to get a second chance at not feeling like I was stuck in a rut.

For some time I was fighting plenty of demons that were preventing me from being the “ray of sunshine” others may have seen. I struggled with being in the closet for over twenty years which fueled the depression and in result my dependency on alcohol sky rocketed as a way of self medicating. All of those things combined ended up being my biggest downfall. I lost a lot of ambition, and parts of me that were once hopeful became tainted with negative thoughts.

After a certain age people lose that sense of hope that we all have as children. The hopeless romantics turn into cynics and the always cheerful quickly turn into the burnt out. It is unfortunate how there is this thought that in order to be an adult you have to stop believing in the things you used to at a younger age.

Somewhere along the way something makes you lose the sparkle in your eye that you had for many years. I’ve seen, and experienced, the kindest of people turn stone cold (it’s disheartening, especially when it is someone close). I’m an advocate against cynicism; I find it boring and plain. Call it naïve, but I think it makes life more colorful to look on the brighter side of things.

When I was at my rock bottom I could almost feel the negative vibes taking over my everyday mindset (which was quickly muted out with alcohol just like any other problem I had). I was morphing into a person I didn’t even recognize anymore. The relationship I was in at the time was falling apart and it scared me, but I knew there was nothing I could do so I drank (in retrospect that is probably when I should have stopped drinking). I was in a job that made me absolutely miserable and only aided my drinking habit, but I felt so stuck that I didn’t see a way out.

Originally moving to Philly was supposed to be a temporary thing until I found a job outside of the restaurant industry, except it was beginning to feel permanent. That’s what really started to get inside of my head, and I felt as though I was at a dead end which ended up ruining all other relationships in my life. Internally I felt like I was failing and the only thing that was an escape from that reality was drinking. At the time I could see no positive outcome, and it has taken me almost five months of being sober from alcohol to see that.

Then February rolled around and I was endlessly looking for jobs since the restaurant I had been working at shut down. One day I saw an ad on Craigslist (of all places, I know) for a lacrosse goalie coach. Growing up I was always involved in sports, but a lot of people that know me as an adult aren’t aware of that part of my life.

Lacrosse was a sport that I was really into in high school and missed out on the opportunity of playing in college because of poor grades (one thing I have always regretted). There I was with this chance to get back involved with a sport that I love, and I figured if I managed to write a convincing enough cover letter maybe I would hear back.

When I eventually did hear back, I was shocked but obviously extremely excited that I got a response. Being surrounded by the positive energy of lacrosse and the team is a rewarding thing (Even Chuck Klosterman was a coach before his career took off, right?). I may only be in my mid-twenties but thus far I’ve learned a lot of tough life lessons. The most important is taking responsibility for how your life is going, and changing something if it is making you miserable.

As adults sometimes it is easy to lose that sense of positive, “childlike” hopefulness about the world. Sometimes I truly believe that is the downfall of society. Too many people that you pass on the street have unpleasant looks on their faces, and it is gratifying to pass a stranger with a kind smile. There isn’t enough positive energy or politeness in this world. It is vital to remember that every struggle in life is not permanent, even if it might be tough right now. From personal experience I know it is easy to get wrapped up in a dejected mindset and have it ruin you. Life is meant to be something enjoyable, and somewhere along the way that can be forgotten. The key to it all is finding reasons to smile about why you woke up this morning, even if it is simply for the sun rise or the smell of the coffee brewing.

Deceiving

By- Traci Taylor
March 2015

My past has a way of creeping into my present
there’s the constant desire for that bittersweet taste
Memories collide into one and it feels inescapable

Each day requires more strength than the previous,
cold days are only deceivably peaceful
warm days overwhelmed by the sun are easier.

My own past is an archive of reminders.
In an objective mindset my present self is stronger
long gone are my days of a liquid courage mirage.

Life can appear easy and within seconds it feels burdening.
With my eyes closed I find the courage.
My present overshadows and I can breathe again.

Promised Tomorrow

By- Traci Taylor
February 2015

Days are growing longer
and I finally discovered my own worst enemy.
The haunting persistency of a mind filled with
thoughts racing over and over again.

Too many times have I tried to find the off switch
and I have learned the undesirable truth.
The thought of wanting nothingness is permanent.
Such hope is filled with a bitter darkness.

In time it is patience that provides peace
and I open my eyes to a surrounding unconditional love.
The truth is choosing to stay takes just as much courage.
An unpredictable future is just as comforting as any sort of promised tomorrow.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Living with Depression

**Note from the author: Being vulnerable is hard, but sometimes sharing a personal story in hopes to relate to someone reading it is worth the risk. Writing is my passion, and before I was a writer I was a reader. My favorite thing about reading is feeling a connection to the author and being able to relate through the words that were written. I believe words have a lot of power and they can aid people in many ways. I chose this topic so others who can relate are aware they are not alone. Sometimes I think it is nice to be reassured every now and then that you are not the only one who feels a certain way.

By- Traci Taylor
January 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

There’s a stigma in society about depression and how it is perceived. Unfortunately, because of this people who do not understand what it feels like to not want to get out of bed until three in the afternoon think it is mere laziness. That way of thinking is pure ignorance to the people suffering with depression. I was petrified to even consider the fact that I may be depressed because of the entire stigma around it. So, I self medicated with alcohol and ultimately became someone who was depressed with an alcohol problem.

Living with depression is extremely difficult; especially when people around you aren’t aware the smile on your face is complete bullshit. Some days aren’t as hard to get through as others, but life is no cake walk for the people who are suffering. Trying to describe the feeling is somewhat impossible, unless you have an idea of how staying in bed hidden under the covers seems easier than conquering any sort of daily routine.

Writing has been my choice outlet with coping with depression. Up until a few months ago I chose alcohol and other ways to ignore my own feelings. I was young, and I didn’t want to believe someone could feel as sad as I did, so I drank instead. I got lucky back in October with the wake-up call that I had. I knew I either had to make drastic changes or eventually really destroy myself.

Some days aren’t as bad as others, but the thing with depression is it sneaks up on you in many ways. Things can seem to be going really well in life, but then you wake up sad without any clue as to why. So, the only solution that seems logical is to stay in bed as long as possible. Although I have finally chosen to look to therapy and other healthy outlets to cope with this sadness I still don’t have the ultimate answer. I don’t think anyone does, and truthfully I don’t think it is that simple.

I’m not an expert on the medical terms, but I am experienced on how difficult it is to live with. Overall, I am a generally happy individual who loves and appreciates life. Just because I deal with depression and am now sober does not change my personality entirely. In fact I believe the people who have similar struggles and still manage to light up a room with their smile are the strongest people I know in my own life. They are the kind of people in society that should be admired.

Until now I was pretty non-vocal about the inner struggles I had been going through. Even in today’s world there are still people that are quick to judge at any particular flaw, so I think my hesitation to admit I was a drunk depressed lesbian goes without saying. People fear the unfamiliar and aren’t welcoming to things they may be ignorant to.

My alcohol problem began for plenty of reasons and spun out of control as those reasons grew. I was in the closet the majority of my life (which chances are aided in my depression) and that really sucked. At one point I was so far in that closet I was probably buried in dust with all of my TY Beanie Babies.My therapist liked to use the term of me fearing to come out for so long as, “internalized homophobia”. I took many of weeks to let that term sink in and discovered how on point she was.

I struggled to admit who I was and couldn’t even see that it was a factor in my sadness. I drank instead, a lot. Alcohol was the best friend I had who could make me blur out things I didn’t want to cope with. Dealing with things while under the influence seemed a lot easier than being sober. In fact I was drunk off my ass on tequila when I first admitted to my best friend at the time I thought I was gay.

Admitting to myself that I was gay took a huge weight off of my shoulders, but added a fear of telling loved ones in my life what took me so long to admit to myself. That was a very long road for me which I got through with support from others and lots of whiskey.

If anyone you know in life suffers from depression, I have only one suggestion: always be supportive, but do not try to fix the individual. It may seem frustrating, but the truth is you have no power over the sadness that individual is feeling. The cause for their emotional state has nothing to do with anyone; that is just how depression runs its course. It is a sort of sadness that cannot simply be changed with a flick of a switch. Just be there, be understanding, and understand sometimes with depression being alone for a few moments may be needed.

It begins to get slightly easier living with depression when a person learns to love themselves and surround themselves with positive, loving people. Toxic relationships I have found do not better a person, they only seem to make things worse (depressed or not get rid of those kinds of people in your life, trust me on this). The thing with depression is, even in a room full of people there can be an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. That’s why it is vital for those around people going through depression to fully be aware of the core truth to the suffering.

One step at a time or day by day- both expressions I find myself using over the past few months. Surprisingly life seems to be easier to tackle when it is dealt with in small doses instead of overwhelming amounts. I’m not an expert by any means, but I write from experience (after all shouldn’t we listen to those who have treaded the waters, not just read about them?). Life is about learning as you go, and appreciating each moment lived. Some days the skies are still filled with storm clouds, but it’s about being able to find the beauty in the rain that makes life so magnificent.