Tag Archives: courage

The Writing on this Wall

This evening I had a very brief but very meaningful exchange with a dear friend. He said, “I’m not a secretive guy, so it’s hard for me when everyone is secretive.” And in a fit of unexpected honesty I replied, “I’ve always had issues with owning my life. Like, I’d rather not apologize for it, so I hide it, which ends up sucking for me and, more importantly, for those around me. I should grow up.” And while he kindly made excuses for me, I realized that what I said was so so right and something I had thought for a long time, but never said. And in saying it, I felt it–I felt ashamed.

I have, too often, been incapable of owning up to my own choices. Even when I feel not at all misguided or unwise in my decisions, even when I would have no problem defending my path should I be confronted, I go to great lengths to avoid such a confrontation. Like, when I decided to move in with my significant other (*cough* in hindsight maybe that was a misguided decision, but at the time it seemed like a good plan. Sue me. *cough*) all those years ago, I tried to keep it from my very Catholic family for a long time. As a 21 year old woman who had willingly entered into an adult relationship, I shuddered at the thought of my family judging me for it. Judging me for what? Being human? Being *gasp!* normal?! I felt that there was nothing wrong with my actions, yet, because someone else might, I tried to keep my life under wraps.

How. Fucking. Pathetic.

I admire so much the people I know who are unapologetically and unabashedly up front about their lives (like her, and her). Having the confidence and the courage to say, “Yeah, this is me. This is my life. Not everyone is going to be OK with all of it. So-the-fuck-what?” is so incredible to me. I want to be that awesome. And I am going to be that awesome. Starting now.

I have wanted to write this blog for months, but I kept talking myself out of it with really weak ass excuses. So I am done.

This…finally…is the story of my tattoo.

First, if you don’t either know me personally or have never read this blog before, you might want to brush up real quick and read this post. But long story short, last fall my asshole father told me to get the fuck out of his house. So I did. It was really really scary to grab my purse and walk out the front door with no idea where I was planning on going or what I was going to do the next day…and the day after…and the day after…but I did it. I left. When, after several weeks, my father ate crow and said, for the first time in my life, “I’m sorry,” I was a little surprised but not impressed or moved, as he had so clearly expected me to feel. So when he said, “Just come home. Do it for your mother,” I surprised both of us by saying, “Don’t you dare tell me what to do for my mother. You want to do something for her? Quit drinking.” It was the bravest and the most self-assured I had ever felt in my entire life. And, needless to say, I didn’t move back in.

It is quite nerve-wracking to turn down a roof over your head and free food for uncertainty and homelessness, but, in that moment, the truly frightening thing would have been to be back under the roof of the man who tormented me most of my life. In that moment, I was fearless. And as I rode the high from that burst of bravery over the following weeks, I wanted nothing more than to feel that sense of sheer unstoppable courage in every aspect of my life. So, though I had not ever really thought of myself as the type to get a tattoo, I decided that that was just what I needed: a permanent and tangible something to remind me, every single day, of the bold, unafraid person I can be.

So I had “without fear” inked into my left ribcage…right next to my heart.

Every day, when I get out of the shower, I see those words on my skin, and they remind me that I don’t have to be intimidated by life. Life leaves its scars (I have 98 visible ones so far, and many more invisible), but worrying about the pain that’s to come hurts just as much–if not more–than the actual pain when it happens. I will live a much fuller life if I hope and love and experience as much as I can without fear.

Now, I am in no way saying I am fearless. LORD, no. But I am a less fearful work in progress. When I start shying away from good things, simply because they might go away at some point, I give myself a shake or a slap and say, “HEY! You’re wasting time being afraid. Knock it off!” and then I try to forge ahead with a little more courage and a slightly higher held head. And when I step outside myself and do things that are foolish or risky and then suddenly feel a little more alive, I know I am becoming the kind of person I want to be: the kind of person who has “without fear” scrawled across her ribs.

Have a problem with what I just told you? Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

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A Beautiful Disaster

[I know, I don’t write enough. But I won’t start each few and far between post with an apology anymore…after this. Sorry.]

Once upon a time, at a sketchy university health center, a psychologist tried to tell me I was bipolar. The quack was wrong–I was merely going through puberty–but if she tried to diagnose me similarly right now, however, I might not think she got her doctorate from a correspondence school.

I have been a walking rollercoaster as of late. I feel so happy I could just die…and then so sad, and so very very lonely, I could just…die. It’s funny, I have some wonderful people in my life constantly trying to boost me up, but the higher they get me, the farther I fall.

The health nut part of me keeps thinking if I just get enough folate, keep exercising often, go back to yoga, then my mood will even out. The female part of me blames my uterus, my hormones, and my very chromosomes for making my batshit crazy like every other woman that ever lived. But the wise and the realistic part of me just knows that this manic-depressive/riotous laughter vs. heaving sobs/wide smiles and sullen frowns kind of existence is all part of being more myself.

Yeah, it’s an Amp thing.

When you take risks, when you go with gutsy truths over easy falsities, when you decide to actually live instead of merely survive, the stakes are significantly higher. So, naturally, the wins are all the more satisfying, but the losses get you where it really hurts. But no matter how much I hate moments like this–when I feel like I’m playing the fool in my own life, and I just want to become a permanent addition to my mattress–I know this is a much better life than the one I was living half a year ago.

So, yeah, I didn’t feel nearly as lost or confused then as I do now, and I had a certain amount of security in the day to day, and I even occasionally convinced myself I was “content,” if not happy–but I was a zombie. I was a stranger in my own life. Now, though I sometimes still look around and wonder where the hell I am and how I got here (metaphorically and, sometimes, literally), at least I am alive and feeling my way through it all: feeling so stupidly happy with friends I am tremendously lucky to have found; and feeling less than stellar emotions (sometimes with or because of those same friends, sometimes because I had to leave those friends, and sometimes for no reason that I can pinpoint) that bring back memories of an acne and misery riddled adolescence. My emotions are on hyperdrive and it’s exhausting and annoying…and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I look around at my current state of affairs, and it’s just a wonderful kind of chaos. Even when I am feeling down, I still can’t help but realize that I have it alright. There are people–real living, breathing people–who desire my presence in their lives. I have a future ahead of me that might not totally suck (as long as I stay strong and keep fighting for it); a future that will get me out of the suburban hell hole to which I always thought I was doomed. I have perfect teeth. I have parents that are misguided, and tragic, and so very stupid sometimes, but who still manage to make me feel loved (even though I try to hide from them as much as humanly possible). I have a decent sense of humor and an unmatched ability to laugh at myself. I have a brother for whom I would do anything, and who I hope is proud to say he’s related to me. I have the world’s best dog. I have a head of hair that’s finally thickening (thank you, iron supplements). I have more pairs of Converse sneakers than anyone in the world should own. And I have a wee, helium-y little optimistic voice in my head that insists that everything is going to be just fine.

And even sad Pamela knows that foolish little voice is probably right.

OK, most certainly right.

This life is a beautiful disaster…and it’s mine. I find myself so often glancing around at my little slice of the world with a smirk, a deep sigh and an eye roll. It’s absurd and silly and messy and stunning and pathetic and adorable and ridiculous …and I love it.

 

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Allow me to introduce…Amp

You may recall, if you’ve ever been bored enough to browse this website before, that I have been working very hard to ban fear from my life. My mantra of “Be Brave” has led me to make a myriad of decisions that have proved to have been EXCELLENT choices, because they have made me feel alive  for the first time in years. It’s like I was sleepwalking through my life. I was so afraid of experiencing anything remotely negative that I missed a lot of experiences that could have enriched my life.

Well, no more.

A dear friend of mine said just last night, “If only the Pammy I met could see the person sitting in front of me right now. She’d be like, ‘That’s not me.'” And she is 100% correct. The girl I was when I went away to school in 2006 claimed to want to find herself and have some fun but…that didn’t really happen. I was too fucked up from the less-than-healthy homelife I was leaving to get anywhere close to having fun. I had to play it safe for a while, recuperate for a while, and find a little sanity-come-boredom. But while I know at that time I needed that, now, as I’m finally, finally, bursting free I can’t help but think, “What a waste, what a waste, what a waste.” I think of all the friends I didn’t make, the parties I didn’t crash, the boys I didn’t hook-up with, the recreational drugs I didn’t try, and I just shake my head. Did I even go to college? I may be a logical girl who knows that, just maybe, not experimenting with drugs wasn’t the worst thing, but seriously, I kept myself so sheltered. It’s like I was still living with my parents, afraid to come home late for curfew. I got one hickey in three and a half years, and I was mortified. Now I’m like, “Hey, it was FUN getting that goddamn hickey.” Fuck.

So now, a couple years late, I’m finally wanting to be a little…adventurous. I don’t want to be a slut or a druggie, I just…want to live. But every once in a while I step back from myself and that shy, fearful girl I used to be takes over and I have to ask, “Who IS this woman?” Well, I’ve decided to dub this new brave, fiery person I’m allowing myself to be my alter-ego…and I’ve named her Amp.

My fantastic and inspirational cousin Stef once mistyped her name in an email to me as “Fest,” and it was such a cool moniker that I looked to my own name for a fun anagram. For a split second I thought, “Oh man, all I have is ‘map.’ Boring.” But then I stopped being stupid and saw that my name comes equipped with a rad nickname that embodies everything I am hoping to be. I want to turn the volume up on my life, I want to be and see and do simply more: I want to open-mouth laugh more, dance all the more ridiculously, sing louder and more off-key, and just…ROCK. I want to rock. And thus, Amp was born.

Amp, dancing as if everyone is watching and she DOESN'T GIVE A FUCK

When I start to shrink away from a new experience, I have to ask myself:  What Would Amp Do? During my recent trip to Chicago (so much more on that to follow in future posts), I was considering not venturing into downtown and just hanging out at the hotel. And, you know, I would have enjoyed the peace and solace of time alone in a king-sized bed, but I also would have been very disappointed in myself. So my alter-ego took over, and was all, “Get the fuck up and get the fuck out. You’re in CHICAGO  bitch.” And so I did. And then, when a long long lost friend suggested we meet up, my mousier self sort of hesitated: “I don’t really know him anymore, it could be awkward, and I have to get up early tomorrow.” Lame.  But again, the fearless girl in me came out and I took a leap and got dinner with a guy I haven’t seen in 5 years. And guess what? It ended up being an incredibly fun night; some people, it turns out, still know how to party.

I was beyond pleasantly surprised, but, frankly, I should just start expecting happy surprises around each corner. You take a chance, good things follow. I have to start believing this with my whole heart, because life has been revealing to me that it is so so true.

So, I don’t even need my mantra so much anymore. Now I simply have a split personality: the sorry excuse for a young woman I was before who just won’t die, and the new, vibrant, lively girl I am becoming more and more each day. You can still call me Pam if you wish, but, these days, I prefer Amp.

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I was dreaming when I wrote this

It is nearly 2:00AM where I sit right now, and I should be tired. But I am not. I have too many thoughts, too much music in my head right now to sleep. And not just actual songs–though those are certainly present: one lyric after another streaming through, one bass line overlapping another, drums and drums and drums–but also the music of the rain, the music of my dog’s slow breathing next to me, the music of my the computer keys under my rapidly moving fingers. It’s so mesmerizingly distracting.

For the record, I am not on drugs.

I have had this one line running on loop in my mind for a few weeks now, and I have to share the series of emotions and thought bubbles it has inspired. No one who has read this blog before will be surprised that the line is from a 30 Seconds To Mars song, A Beautiful Lie:

“Lie awake in bed at night, and think about your life. Do you want to be different?”

My response to that question is a loud and resounding YES.

YES, I do want to be different. In so many ways that I can’t even bear it sometimes.

The first way in which I wish to be different is that I do not want to be an asshole. Is that crude? I’m sorry. But, frankly, I am disheartened by the number of just unfriendly human beings I encounter on a daily basis. I am always pleasantly surprised to encounter kind, sociable people, but I shouldn’t be. Kind and sociable should be the norm. I should not be taken aback when someone holds open a door for me, or smiles at me as we cross paths when I’m out walking my dog, but I am. I am always dumbfounded when I meet other nice people, because it doesn’t happen enough.

That. Is Tragic.

So, yes, I wish to be different and be (pardon me while I utilize an old church analogy) a light for the world rather than a black hole sucking the light from the sky. I try to smile at everyone I can, from the grumpy teller at the bank, to people who pull up next to me at red lights. I try to make someone laugh every day because A) laughter is a cure all for them and B) for me, making others laugh is the greatest feeling in the whole wide world. I want to be one of those people that you meet and in a seconds-long encounter, your day is changed for the better. It depresses me to think that I have ever made anyone sad–and I know I have in the past, and I am sorry–but I hope from here on to only (or at least, mostly) bring happiness. I owe that much to the other nice people in the world: a little reciprocity.

But I am also a conceited little fuck and want to be different for the sake of…not being like anyone else.

If my parents got one thing right with me, it is my name. I LOVE the name Pamela. Spot on, ‘rents, spot on. I mostly loved that name as a child because no one else my age had it. There were a handful of Amandas, a couple Nicoles, plenty of Jessicas, but just one Pamela, and that ROCKED. I never appreciated the existence of Pamela Anderson in the world, particularly when my 3rd grade teacher made that my nickname, but for the most part I enjoyed my unique title. I wasn’t always so down with being different, but sometimes, your soul just takes over and originality happens.

Destined to be different

I also learned from an early age that scars are cool. I have over 80 scars on my body, and while I don’t remember where all of them came from, I do have a story for most of them: the dime-sized spot on my forearm is where my dad’s parrot took a chunk out of me for no reason except it is the devil; the raised purple knob on my knee is where a piece of my high school track is still embedded from falling flat on my face during my first ever track meet; the long thin line on my toe is where a screw wedged itself once; the spot next to my right eye is where my mom cut me with a poorly sharpened eyeliner pencil while getting me ready for my dance recital as a tot. I adore each and every one of my scars because they are proof of the life I have lived. Even the crack in my skull, the one that you can follow with your finger from my hairline down to my eyebrow, is a wonderful part of me that I embrace, for had I no scars, that would have meant I have lived a safe (and utterly BORING) life. Each time I fell off my bike, that was a life experience I wouldn’t give up for anything. Each time my brother pinched me with his dirty little fingernails causing tiny infections all over my arms and eventually leaving a dozen little pockmarks, those were…well, not great experiences, but they shaped me. All my “flaws” are evidence of the life I’ve lived up until now, a life that is all mine, not yours.

Over the years, learning to appreciate what makes me different has led me to yearn for even more originality. I don’t want to be like anyone else but me, thanks. When people say, “You know who you remind me of?” my heart sinks a little, because I only want to remind you of Pamela Wall. I want to be so badly one of those people with a certain je ne sais quoi. I have an asymmetrical face, crooked ears, an annoying voice, and enormous and intrusive hand gestures: you should remember me, goddammit. I am flattered when people tell me I look like Chyler Leigh but I don’t see it, and I don’t want to see it: she is a perfect china doll, and I only wish to be imperfect, lopsided, lovable me. Is that so much to ask?

I am always looking for more ways to be more like myself, more ways to show the world who I am inside. And, you know, that’s not an easy task, seeing as some people don’t want me to be me. Ralph Waldo Emerson is my hero, and he said something that I tell myself on a daily basis:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Fuck yeah, it is. I have people telling me how to look, how to behave all the time: don’t cut your hair, be more like a girl, stop wearing Converse All-Stars, stop being so loud, CALM DOWN. Well, guess what, if I want to chop off my hair, I’m fucking going to. I am a girl, even if I don’t fit your form of what a girl should be. My Cons are my FAVORITE and I will not give them up for anyone or anything and why do you care what I put on my feet anyway?! I AM loud: I am Polish and Italian, it happens. And I will NOT calm down. I am a high-strung crazy chick and I know it, but I thrive on a good dose of anxiety, I get help when it gets to be too much, and it’s up to me to decide which it is, thank you very much. It is real work to ignore all the voices pressing in every day, but when I do, that’s when I feel right. I feel good. I feel…like myself.

In my still-rocking Be Brave phase, I want all the more to stand out from the crowd. I happily danced, sang, and skipped on a 4-mile walk with my dog the other day, and it was SO FUN. I got some weird looks from passing cars (well, actually, the cars didn’t look at me, they’re cars. The people inside the cars did, if I’m using correct English) and a few people who were hanging out on their porches laughed (I’m assuming at my singing which is unabashedly awful) but so what? Even if I see these people again, will they know it was me? And frankly, if I saw a girl skipping down a main drag I’d say, “Damn, that girl has flair.” I’d like to think I have flair. I try to have flair. I hope to someday have flair.

YAY FLAIR.

Anywho, I keep humming to myself and answering the “Do you want to be different?” question with a soul-shaking “affirmative!” I’ve never felt like I fit in, so why should I try now when it is so much more fun sticking out like a sore, goofy thumb. It might embarrass the people around me but, clearly, if they’re embarrassed of me then I don’t really need them around and they can fucking leave. I am staying right here, with my purple converse, my nerd glasses, and a smile, because life is so much more fulfilling when I get to be myself, unashamed and unrefined.

Aaaaaand, now it’s 3:00AM, and the music plays on and on and on and…

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It’s like Ohm Shanti…but not

When you think of mantras, I bet you envision monks meditating on snowy mountain-tops, or tan glistening yogis in L.A. coaching plastic-surgeried housewives and celebutantes. You don’t? Oh, well, I always did.

For me, the word mantra evoked notions of people seeking peace and transcendence. And while reaching a higher plane is all well and good, these days, I need a little less peace and a little more…action. But I read an article in Runner’s World about running mantras that help you power through the hard parts or push yourself a little harder for that last half mile. Something about a simple sentence to repeat over and over spoke to me, so I selected myself a little mantra to try out on an 3 mile-run: “Stride Strong, Be Brave.” After beating my 5K PR, I knew I had a winner. But I didn’t know that a little running mantra would wake me up.

Courage, bravery, that’s always something I’ve felt I lack. I have plenty of fear– fear of the unknown, fear of failure, feat of judgement, fear of conflict, fear of change (which ties in with the unknown), fear of insanity (that’s a whole other blog)–and that really hinders my enjoyment of…life. How can I make a decision, live my life at all, if I am paralyzed by the idea of something going wrong? How can I feel free to be myself if I am constantly afraid of people judging me? How many times have I chosen a safer path, a more boring haircut, a less feisty comeback, out of fear? I finally got sick of it, and it all started with me wanting to be a better runner.

Anyway, I started thinking to myself “Be Brave” on and off throughout the day, sometimes about things that may not even have anything to do with bravery: I really want that ice cream“Be brave”Oh, guess I don’t. I really like these nerd glasses, but my boyfriend might not“Be brave!”Fuck it, buying them! The more I started aligning myself with living without fear, the more  self-confidant I felt. And then, last weekend, I did something that would have mortified an old version of myself. Something that was clearly one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.

And so follows my Super Epic Tale of my Mantra. So maybe I didn’t confer with god…I think this is still pretty amazing.

Here’s what happened. I LOVE 30 Seconds to Mars (read this for more on that) and I finally decided to part with some money and see them in concert. I was totally stoked and had been planning every little detail down to what shoes I would wear for weeks.  And then, a mere 6 days before the show, they announced a theme: sports! Let me say that of all the themes they had to choose from (bloodball, whiteout, goth, etc.) they went with the last one I would have chosen for the Detroit show. And, you know, a month ago, I probably just would have worn a Tigers T-shirt (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Yay Detroit teams! Go Tigers! Go Wings! Go…oh, does anyone care about the Pistons anymore?) and called it a day. But I was in Bravery phase. I wanted to stand out, and just because they picked what I considered to be a lackluster theme didn’t mean I personally had to lack in luster. I wracked my brains for that almost- week, and literally found myself having nightmares about what I would wear to the goddamn concert.

And then, the night before, I had an epiphany: in what sport do the athletes wear fishnet stockings and torn tank tops and war paint and arm bands? In what sport is sexiness part of the fun (and I am not talking about beach volleyball)? Roller derby! I have totally admired those girls since I saw the derby episode of Psych, and it just seemed like the ideal costume idea: certainly a sport, but way more noticeable than a baseball cap. And hey, in the spirit of being brave, why blend in when you can standout…in a helmet.

So in a few frantic hours before the concert, I ran around Southeastern Michigan on a raging caffeine buzz gathering materials for two roller derby costumes, one for myself and one for my very loyal friend Shannon who agreed to be brave along with me. And that night we rolled (pardon the pun!) up to the Fillmore in Detroit decked out in knee socks and helmets and armbands. Shannon looked at the very innocuously dressed crowd with trepidation, but I felt all the more spurred on by the lame-zors in the crowd. We were dressed to theme (whether anyone else knew there was a theme or not was beside the point…the band knew, and I only cared about what they thought), we looked damn good, and we would turn heads. Maybe the people inside those heads would think we looked crazy, but I didn’t give one single fuck: I felt awesome.

We got stares. Stares and sideways glances and quizzical smirks and I loved every minute. And slowly but surely Shannon started to see the fun in being epically courageous in a huge-ass crowd. And had my whole night consisted of people thinking I was nuts, I think I would have been happy with that. But I have my little red helmet to thank for the best night ever.

I was just rocking out to the (Incredible!) show, waving my helmet around, having the time of my life, when I saw Shannon Leto (drummer extraordinaire) looking at me. Not you or you…ME. I waved, and he waved back, and then I put my helmet back on…and he mimed as if he was doing the same. I looked around at the sweaty crowd around me like, “Did anyone else just witness that?!” It was awesome, and I would have carried that memory home as a happy little talisman  except something even more unreal happened.

For the encore song–their ANTHEM “Kings and Queens” no less–the band pulls people up on stage. You hope, you pray, but you never actually think you will make eye contact with the dead sexy Jared Leto, see him point at you and say “You, with the armbands”; you never dream that you will say, “Me?” and knock on your helmet; you would never really allow yourself to believe that he will nod, and then offer his hand to you to help you up onto the stage; and you definitely never ever thought in a million billion years that you would look into his ice blue eyes (the ones you watched in the music videos  and movies all those times) and say, outloud, so he could actually hear you, “I love you.” But yeah, all that happened. I told the Jared Leto–actor, singer, songwriter, most-beautiful-man-to-ever-walk-the-earth–that I love him. To his face.

I should be horrified. But I’m not.

I am just really, really happy that I bought that cherry red helmet.

I wore this in public. I have no fear.

Bravery rules.

So yeah, I never thought a simple mantra could rock my world like this,  but it did. Telling myself to be brave gave me a night I will remember FOREVER. And now, I can’t help but wonder, what will happen if I keep it up?

Seriously, if I just keep being true to myself and keep living courageously and fuck anyone who wants to quash my awesomeness, what can’t I accomplish?What would you do if you drown out all the voices and live without fear? Think about it. No, really, stop, close your eyes, and really think about it: What would you do if you decided to just be brave. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Suddenly, I feel like I have no limits…just as long as I’m brave enough to barrel through the barricades.

I think I’ll start with getting the fuck out of limbo and into a career.

But change is scary…“Be brave, be brave, be brave“…OK, let’s do this thing.

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