Letting Go of All the Versions of Me to Reveal… Me

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

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.

 

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Guest Post: Bravery & Finding the Power of Your Own Voice

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Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

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.

Repeat.

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.

Repeat.

 

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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.

website: www.HollyNicholeZarcone.com
Instagram: @mrs.HollyNichole
Facebook: @HollyNicholeZarcone
Twitter: @MrsHollyNichole

Key to Happiness? Space & Time.

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Photo: Zohar Lazar from NY Mag

I adore my New York Magazine subscription. I know I can almost always read the stories in the print edition on my phone or laptop but there’s something about holding the physical copy in my hand and reading it on the subway that just makes me feel SO good. (It’s also just easier on my aging eyeballs.)

This week they really nailed the cover story… How to be Happy. Which is of course also available online so you can read it too. (But grab it off a newsstand if you can, if only so we don’t all wind up like the humans in WALL-E.)

The story is structured around the most popular course at Yale– Psychology and the Good Life. Why is it so popular? Because college kids are more stressed and depressed than they ever have been before. And arguably, so are the rest of us. The article takes a skim across the course curriculum and its structure. A huge chunk of the course is focused on how our brains trick us into making us unhappy and then moves on to how to rewire our behaviors to be happier. Our brains are basically sabotaging us. Which is depressing to even think about. My favorite takeaway from this portion was that 40 percent of our happiness is entirely within our control. Holy shit.

I will not go on to recap the article here but I strongly suggest you give yourself the time to read it. Which brings me to where I wanted to get to… TIME. The breakdown is this: people are happier when they have more time to just BE than when given some extra money.

Living in a city like New York, it is so hard to see the value in having empty time. It’s a city of hustlers, the city that doesn’t sleep. But filling every waking hour with work, with side hustles, with stuff just to feel “busy” is making us depressed. The misconception is that “busy” means productive and “free time” means lazy.

I have been so guilty of this it’s not even funny at this point. I used fill every wakeful hour with whatever I could. I thought I was being productive. But by the end of the year (for many years) I didn’t move the needle much on any of my goals. I had just kept myself busy and stressed for essentially, the sake of being busy and stressed. I was trying to match the busy and stressed out lives of my peers. Which makes me sad just thinking about it.

This article has come at such a good time for me. I have been exploring self care, meditation, and relaxation techniques for the past year. It’s insane to think that I have to research how to be chilled out, that I actually have to read articles about this to learn that it’s OK to spend an entire weeknight just resting… but I do. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that almost all of us have work to do in this department.

Happiness and success in America have always been measured by money and by time spent working… things that stress us and depress us. It’s time to flip the switch and change how we talk about ourselves and each other. If a friend likes to spend every Thursday night sitting in a coffee shop alone reading our reaction should be “Wow good for them for carving that time out,” instead of  “Shouldn’t they be working on their small business idea?” And the next time you want to spend an hour reading a book, let yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to be truly happy. I know I am trying.

 

 

 

 

Why Write Poetry?

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Photo by Tom Holmes on Unsplash

Ever since I started sharing my shorter poems publicly on Instagram I get a lot of questions and comments surrounding the process, my desire to write it, what it all means. My favorite is “Why write poetry?” I think for some of these people, poetry is a dated or far too academic form of expression. It seems out of touch with our technology-driven communities and the current trend of connecting superficially. But if the rather recent revival of poetry using social media has taught us anything (Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur) it’s that we are hungry for art… because art strives to make sense of that which overwhelms us.

Poetry often worries people. The fear of not “getting it” sends them into a panic and they’d rather not try at all. I understand this, I too remember the requirements of what you must know about poetry for the AP English exam. It can seem overwhelming and weirdly mathematical at times. But to me, the joy of reading poetry comes from your personal experience with it. You can get out as much or as little out of it as you’d like. If you want to read it and feel something–awesome. If you want to read it and then try to understand the author’s intent behind certain word choices–awesome, part two. Poetry can be a bit more malleable than other forms of written word, meanings can change based on when and where you read them. A poem’s affect can vary. This is what I love.

And that’s why I write poetry. I like to capture specific memories, places, and feelings of my own and then put them into a format that can speak to others. My intention with every poem is to make sure someone else doesn’t feel alone. I want readers to engage with each piece and say, “I feel this too” or “I know this”. I want them to love a poem but not be able to tell why. I want them to love a poem and know exactly why.

I want poetry to be more accessible. There are certainly poets and schools out there that do not share this enthusiasm for making poetry for “public” consumption. But I am okay with that. They can have their degrees and robes and scepters (I just threw that in there but I am sure some of them do indeed have scepters). I will play with words and feelings, try new things, learn new skills. I will put my poems out there for anyone who’d like to give poetry a try. Both reading and writing their own.

I’d also love to teach those who are new to it all about it’s history. I want to teach someone about meter and then show them how to break the rules. Nothing would please me more than breaking all the rules someone learned about poetry for the AP English exam. (I do seem haunted by the AP exam today, but I assure I am totally normal and hold no hard feelings…)

There are so many people out there writing poetry right and trying it for the first time! I want to encourage everyone to try it at least once and to forget any rules. Just let the pen move across a page and see what comes up. Come up with your own why for writing poetry… It’s a great healer.

Why do I write poetry? Because humans like to make sense of the world around them, and what better way to make sense of this world by creating other beautiful ones?

 

Guest Post: Coming Out as Queer after Being Gay for 15 years

 

In Cheap Courage’s continued effort to shine a light on being honest about what scares us, I am still accepting monthly guest posts that explore the meaning of bravery, fear, courage, and honesty. Please reach out if you’re interested in sharing!

This week’s essay, “Coming Out as Queer after Being Gay for 15 Years” comes from one of my closest friends and a recent self discovery he has made. I thank him for his bravery and for your openness and dedication to my little project here.


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Photo by Serrah Galos on Unsplash

I was fifteen and living in Iowa when I first came out as gay. I was young, terrified, and hurting so much emotionally that my only way to control heartache was by cutting myself with a fishing knife.

But I came out. I got help. I got better eventually. And I’ve known love since then.

I think a lot about this time of my life. The scars on my arm won’t let me forget it. And, after 15 years of survival and knowing myself as a gay man, I am now confronted with a new, terrifying realization:

I am not a gay man. I am a queer man.

And that’s hard for me to reconcile. It’s hard for my family and friends to understand. And it’s a hard conversation to have with gay men who view queer men as a threat or unknown they can’t process.

Over the last 18 months I’ve found myself in these moments that feel emotionally similar to those I was having before I came out as a gay man. I noticed increased levels of anxiety as I struggled to resolve a grating tension between my mental and emotional self. Like before, the feeling of heartache and the inevitable loss of control were ever-present and frightening.

It is really hard to look in the mirror and have the thought, “who you project to the world isn’t who you are.”

It’s nearly impossible to look in the mirror at the age of thirty and have the thought; “you can’t possibly do this for the rest of your life.”

Recently, my twin sister came to visit, and I came out to her as queer. I did it very nonchalantly – as I have with most of my friends – because I’m secretly hoping if I’m casual about it they won’t ask me what I mean.

Because if I’m honest. I’m still figuring this out. I’m not sure what it means. But I do know that for the first time in a long time I haven’t felt trapped in a consciousness that wasn’t my own. And that feeling is a sacred space that many LGBTQ folks struggle to find.

During this conversation with my sister she did the most loving thing a person could do at that moment: she was honest, “I don’t know much about this. What does being queer mean?”

I didn’t give her a finite definition. I’m not sure that there is one definition of what it means to be queer – it differs for every person. For queer folks their own identity is a sacred place of understanding.

But I do know what I’ve been reconciling as I’ve navigated this realization:
• It started with my increasing rejection of the binary. I’ve never believed in the binary when regarding sexuality and have always believed that sexuality is an every-moving point on an endless spectrum.

• I’ve also been contemplating how the binary (sexual, gender) has been, is, and will always be used as a means of oppression for one end of the binary.

• And what it mans to be an “other” outside of an accepted binary caste system.

Mostly, though, I’ve felt trapped inside a definition of myself wasn’t me, but rather what I felt was wanted from me.

Looking back, I’ve realized that I was accepted for being gay by many because they could understand what being gay meant in opposition of themselves, or straight. They were comfortable only because they could compare it to themselves, with my sexuality being the abnormal identity.

In the few times I expressed any behavior that crossed any sort of known boundary, it was rejected because they couldn’t place it within their binary understanding. And as such, I too, internalized the idea that a binary look at sexuality and gender was the only correct way to understand these complex identities.

Struggling to be gay for fifteen years has confined the possibility of me being my actual self – whatever or whoever that turns out to be. And if I feel this at thirty in New York, I can only imagine what a scared teenager of 15 in Iowa is feeling. So I’ll leave with this: I’m queer, and if you are too, you have don’t be alone in this.

 

justin

Justin Dewey is a former playwright and current arts marketing professional living in Queens. He currently serves as a Marketing Manager at The Public Theater.