I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.
All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.
Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.
I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.
By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.
It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.
I am always so grateful to be a place where people can share their stories of bravery and challenges overcome. This is why I write, this is why I maintain the blog, to get voices out there to each and everyone of you. This week Holly Zarcone tells us about the power of our own voices.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
That was the rudimentary thought process that I depended on that early morning. Laying abandoned in the middle of a suburban street, the chill of a summer night cut through the open wounds that now decorated my once smooth twenty year old legs and shoulder. The darkness closed in around me, just a few porch lights twinkling in my periphery. Exhausted and in shock I wondered if I would be found. The street was eerie quiet, a complete contrast to just two hours earlier. Both the sounds of the revelry and the guests whom had partaken in said revelry were now gone. The fear of headlights coming towards me flashed in my mind, followed shortly by the eviscerating reminder of the image of tail lights that had just left me. Not once did I see the crimson glow of a pause or even a second thought resulting in a touch to a brake pedal.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
I was terrified, but I was saved. The same power behind my lungs, vocal cords, and lips that had gotten me into trouble for years finally saved me. My entire life people were telling me to be quiet and not to speak so loudly. I often wonder that if I hadn’t been so scared would I have enjoyed those moments of screaming, my jaw practically unhinged and my voice echoing. I had done it. My people found me. My best friend carried me, bloody and broken, into the house. Parents were called, a quick dash to the ER was made.
People called me brave. Brave? I am not entirely sure that following basic survival instincts classifies you as brave. I wasn’t then and I still, years later, cannot commit myself to that idea. It was in those following months which were doused in heartbreak, depression, and physician prescribed opioids that I believe my courage truly formed. Courage formed under the influence of incantations of “It will be over soon.” , “It will get better.”, and “Stay strong.” It formed while my father had to hold me down so that my mother could scrub my wounds three times a day as I sobbed through the intake of sharp breaths and stabbing pain.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
There is a halo of fog that surrounds the period of time in my life immediately after my accident. There were police officers, insurance interviewers, and daily wound care. There were moments I was in so much pain that I would squeeze my eyes shut until I saw a white burning light. I would go over the facts of what I remembered from that night in my head. Constantly reliving the sequence of events that led directly up to the exact moment my body collided with asphalt. I could practically feel my grip on the plastic and metal as I had clung to the side of the car as he was behind the wheel.
I would make myself crazy trying to decide if it was my fault. I would wrestle with my own psyche, trying to see if there would ever be a way back to the safe space that had been. There was a time that it had been just us; two kids reunited and swaddled in mutual grief and nostalgia. We had never fought, we had never bickered, and it had never felt unsafe – Until it did. It is an odd thing to have such a break in a relationship, that it is cut off so clean while everything surrounding that break is in ruins. I remember thinking that it felt like I had been killed and ended up in a parallel universe where everything was the same, but not.
Eventually, the fog started to lift. I was taken off of the pain management medications entirely and my body healed. Everyone started to look at me like I should be going right back to the regularly scheduled programming. The interesting thing about being cooped up in recovery is that the entire time you want to escape, but when you finally get the all clear, it can actually be quite scary to take the next step. Just getting back to the basics of driving my car was a frightening task. I had to start over entirely; I moved out of my parents house and into a new place with a friend, I was hired into two new jobs, and I eventually opened up to the idea of dating again.
There are no words for the myriad of poor choices and changes that went on within that following year. It took ages for me to me to truly become comfortable with my body and the few scars that remained. I do think though that the most difficult task I encountered was finding the patience, trust, and desire to have something more than a superfluous relationship with someone…So I didn’t. Instead of seeking something with someone else, I looked inward and fell into a deep and fast romance with myself. For an entire year I took the focus off of finding someone else and travelled, worked, played, and genuinely enjoyed life. I made my own safe place…I grew a voice again. I spoke loudly.
There are moments in this life that will break you. You will feel like you cannot go on, and you will feel compelled to give in. Don’t. I implore you instead to assess your position, determine the imminent dangers. Make a decision; and be it bravery or be it basic survival instincts, please open your mouth and force the help you need to arrive. Create urgency, send out an SOS. Use everything you have in order to be saved. Use the entire power behind your lungs, vocal cords, and lips.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
Holly Nichole Zarcone lives on Long Island with her husband, three children, and enormous Saint Bernard. She enjoys going on adventures on land, in the sea, and through pages. She is a freelance writer and blogger. Most recently she self published her first children’s book, Cookies For Dinner, which you can find for purchase on Amazon. You can contact her at HollyNZarcone@gmail.com.
2018 at my day job has been wild. We’ve lost a lot of great people to new jobs and it was painful for me to let go of friends and mentors all at the same time. I won’t say that I handled it particularly well because I had to call my mom to keep myself from crying one day. That’s pretty rare for me. I mean, I waited 24 hours to tell her I spent the night in the ER with a broken nose.
What she told me that day stuck with me and since then, each challenge that arises in my life, whether in direct relation to these big changes or not, I think about it to calm down.
She said to me, “All of this proves just how resilient you are.”
Wow, that’s a word. A word I was and am proud to have bestowed on me. Resilient! I sometimes walk around wondering if I am crazy for putting up with certain things or for not jumping from place to place, job to job, like many of my millennial counterparts. I often think of myself as a lame duck, just paddling along with one sad foot. But resilient? I feel flattered, Mom.
She’s right by the way.
I am not sure when change became so trendy– Quit your job! Travel the world with your savings! Keep moving until you’re happy. All of those concepts never resonated with me. Sure, on a surface level I was like “Hell yes let’s do it!” But deep down, I am the type of person that much prefers to work through the complications I have in front of me, to find happiness and joy in the everyday. I mean, duh, this blog is dedicated to that. But I needed her to remind me that this tendency also makes me resilient.
(PS – I mean if you’re unhappy please find your own happiness, I am not telling you to be miserable! That’s different and you know it. Don’t pin that on me. ;))
Resiliency can be a learned trait. I truly believe this and I will preach it to anyone who will listen. Learning how to be resilient comes from learning how to be uncomfortable. Finding comfort in your life is like finding comfort on a crowded subway– you may not have seat, but you can probably work your way into a safe corner. Since everyone responds well to lists, here’s a “How to Be Resilient” list to get you started on your own journey or to continue growing (everyone, no matter how resilient, always has room for improvement!)
HOW TO BE RESILIENT
Learn to Be Uncomfortable – Life is never going to be 100% sunshine. Find joy in rain. If you’re avoiding a work project because it seems complicated, try to find a way to un-complicate it. Create space where you are.
Find Your Edge, And then Push Past It – Like with exercise or eating kale or starting a particularly hard book… If you stick with it, just past your edge (your breaking point, the day you usually give up) you’ll find that it is possible for you to get past whatever is holding you back. And you don’t need to go far past it, just enough so that tomorrow, you’re a little bit stronger.
Support Others – Believe it or not but helping others to get over their own fears and problems will make you stronger. Others give us purpose, which in turn gives us strength to carry on.
Take Breaks – No human being is going to be capable of taking sh*t nonstop. Learning how to be resilient also means learning how to take a big old break from the work of getting stronger. If you’re tired, take a seat, just don’t turnaround, you are so close!
How often do you think about being resilient? Does thinking of this word make you more capable? Is this the first time you’ve applied the word to yourself? Do you feel resilient now? Let me know…
The first time I touched a flame I flinched. Natural reaction to the rising heat against my delicate skin. A primal instinct of “Ouch, that hurts”! As I’ve grown older the flame real and metaphorical is harder to flinch at. There’s a numbness or rather a tolerance to the things I inherently know are bad for me. The longer it’s taken to flinch has been an indication of how much I’ve let various misfortunes rule my life. It’s a dare, a means of control, yearning to feel—to test or merely seeking to punish. Ultimately, yes, a measure of my self worth or lack there of. So noting and treating my torrential mood disorder, physical pains, and self esteem—felt incredibly self indulgent. The overarching goal was power through and survive.
The other drive has been this intense need to control my narrative.
How can I go through so much in a lifetime? Sometimes I feel like a combination of bizarre statistics or I must be remembering wrong or I’m on a sick and twisted game of candid camera. I didn’t want to be defined by my chronic mental & physical illnesses. I didn’t want people to see me as damaged for having been raped and physically assaulted. I didn’t want to admit I’d attempted and failed to end it all more than once. I ultimately didn’t want the secret out that I didn’t have it all figured out. If I let that slip then I felt I wouldn’t be free to chase my ambitions. “Someday I’ll take a break and figure shit out”, I’d say. Until that day I’d work tirelessly to appear be the badass I worked hard to cultivate.
Sure, there have been pockets of time where I have been forced to heal. Whether it was hospitalization, therapy or just my own personal obsession to occasionally “treat myself” to the holistic life.
I must admit, I judged the hemp-shake hippie lapses as flights of fancy. I normally left no space for treating myself— I even gave myself a silly allowance for tears. “Only twice a year!” (No more than that seemed necessary.) Little did I know how it’d add up.
Life has a way of bringing about lessons over and over again until they finally sink in. So, just in time for what seems to be the self care revolution—I am all here for it.
When you become “flinch tolerant”, you emit a beacon. This beacon attracts predators/negative energy in abundance. Yes, law of attraction. I had been violated emotionally & physically to my core but—- hadn’t flinched in so long. The more it happened the less I wanted to recognize the flame. Not anymore. My change of heart came from a sudden health scare that made me realize how much I had to lose, how much I had to be grateful for, and I had to start to respect myself. My body is my temple so time to clean house. Writing this and becoming transparent with my close friends & family is my attempt to be held accountable. No excuses. And if it reaches one person I’ll consider the band-aid rip worth it.
So what am I getting at—Check in. Does it hurt? Do you judge self care as self indulgent? Do you become irritable at happiness of others or even yourself? Do you experience physical and/or emotional pain regularly that you don’t address? Is it getting worse? Do you go so far as to question your very existence because you stopped allowing feeling —therefore lacking some kind of meaning? You aren’t alone as I have learned and there are so many ways to address this.
We all had those balancing habits the things that brought us back to equilibrium when the pain got us to or close to flinch. Crystals. Kombucha tea. Yoga. Binge watching FRIENDS. Talking to your real friends. Running. Meditation. Prank calls. Ridged potato chips. Star gazing. Point is we checked in and released the tension through these rituals.
It’s time to get consistent. The older we get the less inclined we are to find these things as sacred tension relieving rituals but rather we see them as flighty indulgences made under the protection of early life. It’s shocking how many of us don’t afford time to even really breathe. So do it.
Soothe the aches, the burn in your life. Feel it-flinch even. Note what feels good and what doesn’t. Anoint the ritual of magazine collage making as sacred and utterly important to your ultimate well being. The burns will heal. It’ll sting at first but in time you’ll reveal a new layer. It is in the act of numbing the flinch that we create the eternal cycle that gnaws so earnestly. End the cycle. Find your happy place and feel your sad place and if you have the inclination—seek deeper and deeper into the balance of the peaceful place.
Publicly sharing my non-fiction is literally what my nightmares are made up of. But in my constant fight to open myself to new possibilities and to grow as a writer I have to actually let me writing be read. I am starting a writing class next week on Narrative, taught by one of my favorite non-fiction writers, Chloe Caldwell. Since I had to submit a piece to be accepted and this one made the cut, I figured it was safe to share.
SAD FRENCH MOVIES
There is a night you take me to see a Sad French Movie. Catherine Deneuve is in it and every line of the movie is sung. It’s like a musical, but more so. It’s about falling in love and how life then pulls everything apart piece by piece, like the unraveling of a sweater by each thread. You are always taking me to movies at Film Forum, and you are always forgetting the card that gets us discounted snacks. So we never get snacks. I watch a lot of snackless movies there in those old musty seats.
The movie ends at a snowy gas station and the couple can’t be together because they’re married to other people. They’re all so sad but they’re still singing every word that leaves their mouths. Still singing in the snow. Still singing even though their love failed. The ending makes me sad too, but I guess that is the point of a Sad French Movie, to make life feel very heavy.
Though I am feeling very down, you must be feeling romantic because we walk for three avenues to find a place to have a bottle of red. We never do stuff like this, but we’ve been broke since we got together so we don’t know how to do stuff like this. As soon as the first glass hits my bloodstream, I am weepy. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I feel stuck. Where am I supposed to go? I forget how weepy red wine makes me. The restaurant is Argentinean and we are the only people not eating.