Posted in 2018, Non-Fiction, Ramsey's Book Club

The Good Fight by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

This will be my first book review regarding a Non-Fiction book. Not only that, but a non-fiction book that can be considered a self-help book. Well technically, it’s categorized as Religion/Christian Life/Love and Marriage.

I read this book because I am part of Dave Ramsey’s Book Club and this was the book for February 2018. This book teaches you how conflict can bring you and your partner closer. This book is about 184 pages long and all of it informative. I’ve written some of the basic information and how they have related to me.

This is a book I recommend everyone to read. EVERYONE! Whether you get anything out of it or not, it will plant a seed in your mind about fighting. Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, it provides great insight on yourself and others. I found ways to utilize some of these methods to use on co-workers. It’s a great read.

Dr Les and Dr Leslie Parrot have concluded that a good fight has four elements:

Cooperation
Ownership
Respect
Empathy

The Benefits of A Good Fight

Authenticity: A Good Fight Keeps Us Real
“Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse, as to confront you with yourself.”
-Tim Keller
“We bear witness to nearly everything the other says or does. We begin seeing, in both the other and ourselves, our behaviors, attitudes, and motivations like never before. We give and receive feedback, invited or not, that can rub us the wrong way.”
“Authenticity occurs when our thoughts, words, feelings and actions come into alignment.”

I cannot speak on this as a married person (since I am not married). The closest thing I have come to this (besides family drama) is when I travel with friends. Being together with someone for longer than my typical 2-4 hour hangouts can cause a lot of tension (especially when the both of you enjoy free time alone). I remember cranky arguments that could have been avoided altogether if we were both willing to talk about what was really bothering us. Instead, we hid it from each other and it came out eventually one way or another.

Luckily, being willing to forgive each other for our differences allowed us to make up rather quickly and have the argument we were trying not to have.

Clarity: A Good Fight Sheds Light
“A good fight is often like a searchlight that zeroes in on an issue that has been quietly lurking around the landscape of our relationship. Once we discover that issue–often through the illuminating blaze of a good fight–we’re able to see it and define it, which puts us in a position to do something about it.”

I once had a friend ask me “why do you think you’re better than everyone else?” She didn’t mean it as in that I literally thought I was better than everyone else, but rather, that I am incapable of being nice to myself. That I have this need for perfection. Chasing perfection is chasing an impossibility, therefore, by thinking I can be perfect, makes me “better than everyone else.” I didn’t realize perfectionism was a problem until she broke it down to me. “Your perfectionistic tendencies is ruining your ability to enjoy life.”

For the longest, I felt like having fun was child’s play. “If you were having fun, you weren’t hard enough. In order to get anywhere in life, you have to work hard.” There’s no time for playing. That was my mentality. Build your house with bricks mentality. Why? Because I desperately needed security. And being perfect meant safety. Because if I wasn’t making mistakes, I couldn’t get in trouble. If I didn’t get in trouble, you’d like me more. But my perfectionism got in the way of all my relationships. I was unable to forgive myself for even the slightest of mistakes. Consequently, I would feel like how could they ever forgive me and leave before they even had a choice.

It wasn’t until after that conversation that I started really opening up to people. That I gave people the opportunity to make their own decisions based on our relationship. Most importantly, I allowed myself the opportunity to be real. Not a facade of the perfect person I feel I should be.

Fresh Start: A Good Fight Clears The Air
“The Pollutants of emotional tension, bitterness, stress, strain, woundedness, bad feelings, pressure, animosity, resentments, and walking on eggshells can choke loving feelings right out of the relationship. Collectively, these irritants become a kind of smog that shrouds your marriage in a malaise of discontent.”

I have done my share of resentments and I can attest to it ruining my relationships. One of my biggest resentments was when my best friend started dating and stopped talking to me as much. I remember being upset and not knowing how to talk about it and started being mean to her instead whenever she did reach out. It was…uncalled for. But as a teenager, I didn’t have the tools or emotional intelligence to understand that I was missing my best friend. And as a teenager with hormones, she didn’t have the light of knowing that I was affected by her disappearance (I have abandonment issues).

Eventually, after some much-needed distance, we had an honest conversation about what sparks the change and we both came to an agreement that, no matter what, we will always make time for each other. She lives in a different state now, and we don’t talk like we used to, but because of that agreement, I don’t feel remotely deserted. I know that she will always be there for me, and I, her.

Security: A Good Fight Makes You Stronger
“An African proverb says, ‘Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.’ It takes a little turmoil to spur any of us to become really good at something–including our relationship. As we weather tough times together and come out on the other side, we build trust and confidence in our relationship. We find security.
This sounds counterintuitive, but a good fight, as opposed to a bad one, actually makes a couple’s relationship more solid. it empowers us. We begin to realize we don’t have to be afraid of troubles and tension. We can work it out. We’re strong. With new confidence, we say to ourselves, Our love can stand up when it gets knocked around.

Reason’s We Fight
According to the book, there are 2 bases for fighting: perceived threat, and perceived neglect. We feel threatened when we perceive someone being critical, judgemental, controlling, demanding or attacking. We feel neglected when we perceive someone being uncaring, uncommitted, neglectful, selfish or disengaged. At work,  I feel more threatened, whereas, in my personal relationships, I feel more neglected. The former made total sense when I first read it. However, it was illuminating to read that neglect is more than just not being there. It can also be, not being on the same page. The author shared a story where he said he felt abandoned by his wife when she shut down from a conversation they were having (she shut down because she was feeling threatened by his comment, even though his comment had nothing to do with her parenting skills, but rather his own baggage).

The Cutest Story Ever
That might be an exaggeration but, it made my heart happy. The story goes that a man by the name of Johnny Lingo lived in the South Pacific. he wanted to marry one of the Islanders but, according to Islander customs, he would have to present the father with a cow. The highest price was typically four to six cows. He fancied a timid, skinny, plain, shy girl. The girl was worth very few cows. However, Johhny decided to give her father ten cows. That is more than the highest price! This transformed the girl into a confident woman. His reasoning was “I wanted a ten-cow woman, and when I paid that for her and treated her in that fashion, she began to believe that she was a ten-cow woman. She discovered she was worth more than any other woman in the islands. What matters most is what a woman thinks about herself.”

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(I just did a quick Google search to see if Johnny Lingo was a real person, it turns out that it’s a short film produced by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints..and that in the movie, he actually gave 8 cows. Either way, being treated as more than the highest price makes my inner romantic happy)

Rules for Fighting
The book mentions a few rules for fighting (which I will elaborate more on shortly) but it set an example of a couple who decided to have a discussion, on stage, with a live audience, about a real-life issue just so the audience can see a healthy versus unhealthy way to fight. They had the audience act as buzzers in case one of them broke a rule. The rules they set were: have open body posture (I never considered this to affect how I argue, until reading this), stay clear of blaming each other or trying to show the other person is wrong (this is how trainwrecks happen), lean in while talking (interesting), repeat back what they heard the other person saying before making a new point (I actually heard a therapist say this is useful, because oftentimes, we translate something very different than what was actually said), stay on topic and maintain eye contact. But of course, this couple has been doing that for years…it will feel very awkward when you first try it. I can’t even imagine a time where I had a discussion where I leaned in. A conversation, yes. An uncomfortable discussion….never. Quite the opposite, I want to run away. Or change the subject. Or roll my eyes and blame them. I get why they set these guidelines.

So the rules the authors suggested is to: share withholds (information you are withholding from your partner because you either didn’t have time, are afraid of confronting them or got distracted. It can be positive or negative. They suggest to write two things that you like that your partner did, then write only one thing that they’ve done that has irritated you. Make it a weekly habit to share) rate the depth of your disagreement (one person might find the issue extremely important while the other might not even register it as a problem. This will cause a change in cooperation and lead to tension), agree to disagree when necessary (you won’t always agree and maybe, sometimes, you can use your differences to your advantages in compromising for a more effective solution), apologize when you mean it (half-ass apologies are insulting, and not meaning it doesn’t lead to change in behaviors), practice the XYZ formula (it’s basically a formula they created to get your message accross. X stands for “In Situation”, Y stands for “When you do” and Z stands for “I Feel”. So one that I’ve used with my friends is: when we go out to eat, and you are on your phone, I feel like our time together isn’t as meaningful and that you’d rather do something else.) don’t be cruel, take a time-out if needed (taking a break will cause you to relax and not act on instinct and hurt), read your partner’s mind (They have a good exercise mentioned), and send up a prayer. They created these rules with the CORE attributes in mind. The book goes into further explanation, examples, and details on how to follow each rule.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when they had us identify our fighting method. There are 4 possible fighters: competitive fighter, collaborate fighter, cautious fighter, and conciliatory fighter. They define all 4 and why you are that kind of fighter. They then go into detail on how to understand your partner and his/her fighting personality. What more you need to bring to the table if your partner is, let’s say, a collaborate fighter. It’s really neat! I won’t go too much into this because this is really something you have to read on your own to fully understand your methods and why they work for you. But I will say this, based on my own personal experience, I almost cried when they wrote what my personality type wants out of my relationships (because it was 100% true!). The book also talks about how you and your partner can help each other heal based on the deeper rooted issues of why we fight. It also tackles a chapter on anger.

Seriously, if you’ve enjoyed my blog post so far, you will love the book even more. If you buy the actual book, they have a code so you can get the app which is supposed to help you and your partner with certain tools. I didn’t download it since I’m not married and don’t have a partner to test it out with. They also have a page of reflections after each chapter, just to keep you thinking about what you’ve learned in each chapter.

Favorite Quotes

Contempt is so lethal to love that it ought to be outlawed.

“Contempt is any belittling remark that makes your spouse feel about an inch time.”

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I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.
-Dave Barry

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Marriage is the closest bond possible between two people. Legally, socially, emotionally, and physically, there is no other means of getting closer to another human being. It is the desire for this extraordinary closeness that propels us into matrimony. we long to belong to another person who knows us and loves us like nobody else in the world. This kind of imtimacy is the rocket fuel of marriage. Without intimacy, life becomes horribly cold and lonely. So we plunge ourselves into marriage and give our heart in exchange for the heart of another to discover the deepest and most radical experssion of human connection possible.

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When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
-Karl Menninger

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What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.
-C.S Lewis

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Our life is what our thoughts make it.
-Marcus Aurelius

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The tone of our truth-telling can build a wall or a bridge.
-Ed Waltz

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“That’s not why I pray, Harry,” Lewis responded. “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

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Loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not.
-Colin Powell

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Money doesn’t talk, it swears obscenity.
-Bob Dylan

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According to Hendrix, intesne and recurring arguments are a good indcator that one or both partners have unresolved childhood pain such as abandonment, rejection, smothering, shame, or helpnessness.

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Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful parts of us.
-David Richo

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When you’re not aware of how the pain from your childhood gets replayed and exacerbated in conflicts as a married adult, those childhood scenarios inevitably repeat themselves with the same devastating consequences. The trauma you experienced gets reignited, whether it’s your fear of abandonment, rejection, shame, helplessness, or whatever. Heated conflict ensues, and you resort to defensive childish tactics. But once you face facts and recognize how these early unment needs play into your current relationship, you start to grow. You mature. “It’s crucual to accept the hard truth that incompatibility is the norm for relationships,” says Harville Hendrix. “Conflict is a sign that the psyche is trying to survive, to heal by stretching out of its defenses.”

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The single biggest problem in communication is the illusions that it has taken place.
-George Bernard Shaw

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Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25440140-the-good-fight

Posted in 2018, Fiction

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

I don’t know why I think this, but I feel like this book is underrated. There is nothing too special about the book to make me think that, I just do.

The story follows a man named Eddie, from the day of this death (which just happens to be his birthday) to the five people he meets in heaven, and the stories in between.

The concept is that when you die, you meet five people in heaven that help you understand your life. The themes I see throughout the book is forgiveness, how to let go, integrity, and humility.

Let’s get straight to the quotes:

“There are five people you meet in heaven,” the Blue Man suddenly said. “Each of us was in your life for a reason. You may not have known the reason at the time, and that is what heaven is for. For understanding your life on earth.”
Eddie looked confused.
“People think of heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains. But scenery without solace is meaningless.
“This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. Yo have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for.”

I don’t believe in heaven, but if I did, that’s what I would want.

“Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

“My funeral,” the Blue Man said. “Look at the mourners. Some did not even know me well, yet they came. Why? Did you ever wonder? Why people gather when others die? Why people feel they should?
“It is because the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect. That death doesnt’ just take someone, it misses someone else, and in the small distance between being taken and being missed, lives are changed.”

“Strangers,” the Blue Man said, “are just family you have yet to come to know.”

“No life is a waste,” the Blue Man said. “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”

That was the first lesson. From that, I took that no event is random. The circumstances have a reason for why it happened the way it did, whether we agree with it or not.

He wakes up the next morning and he has a fresh new world to work with, but he has something else, too. He has his yesterday.”

I never realized how powerful the past can be till I read this. You get a fresh start with the knowledge of yesterday. It’s common sense, but how many times have we taken something for granted.

“Sacrifice,” The Captain said. “You made one. I made one. We all make them. But you were angry over yours. You kept thinking about what you lost.
“You didn’t get it. Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother works so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to take care of her sick father.
“A son goes to war…”

Sacrifice is the second lesson. Bitterness can ruin a soul faster than any substance. Sacrifice is selflessness. It’s understanding that you are not entitled. It’s knowing you are a part of a greater scheme of life.

Through it all, despite it all, Eddie privately adored his old man, because sons will adore their fathers through even the worst behavior. It is how they learn devotion. Before he can devote himself to God or a woman, a boy will devote himself to his father, even foolishly, even beyond explanation.

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Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them- a mother’s approval, a father’s nod- are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.

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“People don’t die because of loyalty.”
“They don’t?” She smiled. “Religion? Government? Are we not loyal to such things, sometimes to the death?”
Eddie shrugged.
“Better,” she said, “to be loyal to one another.”

This is the 3rd lesson. Although in this lesson she was referring to her father’s loyalty to his friend, in a way, Eddie was loyal to his father. It’s why he pretty much took his place as his mother’s caretaker and his position in the amusement park. But most importantly, he was loyal to his anger towards his father. This is why the next quote is effective.

“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that gating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
Forgive, Edward. Forgive. Do you remember the lightness you felt when you first arrived in heaven?
That’s because no one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it. But now, here, in order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it.”

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Love, like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive.

“Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.
Life has to end,” she said. “Love doesn’t.”

The fourth lesson is love. Eddie loved his wife. The old fashion love. Where you can’t really move on without your partner.

The 5th lesson is redemption and purpose. I couldn’t find a good quote for it. Nor do I want to go into detail about it because this is something that you should read and experience the impact for yourself. I didn’t know if anything was able to top love, but this did it.

Let me know what you think of this book, and what lessons you believe you might have in your heaven.

Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3431.The_Five_People_You_Meet_in_Heaven

 

Posted in 2018, Becky Albertalli, Fiction, LGBTQ

Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a fun read. It’s also a fast read. I spent a whole day trying to be productive only to find myself back in bed with the book unable to spend more than an hour away from it. If this were a relationship, my friends would have an intervention to stop my clinginess. In short, it’s addictive.

What makes Simon Vs The Home Sapiens Agenda different than most LGBT books is that Simon isn’t ashamed of being gay. He is more afraid of someone outing his online love interest: Blue. The reason he doesn’t want to come out himself is that he doesn’t want to be treated like a different person. He knows his family and friends will accept him but he doesn’t know how it will affect how they act around him.

I love Albertalli’s version of coming out. It’s not about declaring your sexuality, but rather, any change of your personality is a version of coming out. Whether you suddenly decide you’re going to be in a band or you started drinking coffee, anything that alters the perception of you is a form of coming out to the world. It’s neat that it’s comparable to little things because sometimes, coming out as gay seems like a monumental change when in reality, in this day and age, it is far more accepted than a decade ago (depending on where you live and your belief system, of course).

Simon has three best friends; Nick, Leah (Albertalli announced a sequel called Leah on the Off-Beat), and Abby. He has a younger sister who goes to the same high school and an older sister in college. His parents are happily married. The story basically centers around him trying to find out the identity of Blue while keeping it secret from his friends and family. The storyline might sound boring but because life happens, it’s actually interesting. Since he is not constantly beating himself up, like most LGBT books, it’s not as emotionally draining.

Warning: if you read this book, you might develop a strong craving for Oreos.

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Favorite Quotes (some contain spoilers)

“Thanks, but I’m driving.” says Leah. But she wouldn’t be drinking if she wasn’t driving. I know that. Because there’s this invisible line, and on one side are people like Garrett and Abby and Nick and every musician ever. People who go to parties and drink and don’t get wasted off of one beer. People who have had sex and don’t think it’s a huge deal.

I like this quote because it perfectly sums out how I felt as a teenager. The outside of popular kids who go to parties and can talk to strangers without overanalyzing everything.

I know this is weird, but I make my bed every single day, even though the rest of my room is a hellscape of paper and laundry and books and clutter. Sometimes I feel like my bed is a lifeboat.

I like this quote because before I read this book, I saw a video where a soldier was saying “If you want to save the world, start by making your bed.” But I can also relate in the sense that if my bed is made, I feel like I can breathe when I walk into my room. There is something about it being made that brings a sense of calm. And if it’s unmade, I not only feel tired, I feel the overwhelmingness of my future that I was trying to avoid the whole day. Lifeboat, indeed.

My mom was the one who got obsessed with the idea that I had a girlfriend even though I had never had one before. I don’t know why that came as such a freaking surprise to her, since I’m pretty sure most people start out never having had one.

This was just hilarious. And true.

But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.

This twist on coming out has been comforting. He didn’t see his sexual preference any different than all these little changes in habits. “Before I didn’t drink coffee, now I do.” “Before I wasn’t sure I liked boys, now I know.” It’s a life-changing moment, but not in the typical sense of life-changing. Not in the way that it feels like EVERYTHING is going to be different…just a part of you. It reminds me of a study that I was told about where people assume the life-changing events are big, like moving to a new home or changing careers…but in actuality, life-changing events are small, like reading a good book or watching an impactful movie. These things that you can do on your leisure time that do not require much thought about how it is impacting your life. That might not be a fair comparison since Simon did think about it…a lot. But you get the point, I hope. Coming out is just an addition to your personality; not the entirety of your personality.

I actually hate when people say that. I mean, I feel secure in my masculinity, too. Being secure in your masculinity isn’t the same as being straight.

Funny. Never thought about it like this.

They don’t have a clue. They don’t even know I’m gay.
And I don’t know how to do this. Ever since I told Abby on Friday, I kind of thought it would be easy to tell Leah and Nick. Easier, anyway, now that my mouth is used to saying the words.
It’s not easier. It’s impossible. Because even though it feels like I’ve known Abby forever, I really only met her four months ago. And I guess there hasn’t been time for her to have any set ideas about me yet. But I’ve known Leah since sixth grade, and Nick since we were four. And this gay thing. It feels so big. It’s almost insurmountable. I don’t know how to tell them something like this and still come out of it feeling like Simon. Because if Leah and Nick don’t recognize me, I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

2d7202eb-7380-4e61-bb10-fe0cea0c76f8-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1That last sentence is heartbreaking. It’s also scary. But I get it, as a teenager, you aren’t really an individual yet (yes, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, we are a combination of our friends, families, and education.) Best friends are usually more important than family. Best friends are the family we chose to be a part of and if for whatever reason they stop choosing us…that’s just…emotionally scarring.

Trying not to think about something is like playing freaking Whac-A-Mole. Every time you push one thought down, another one nudges its way to the surface.

5b8bb193-be92-43af-8542-64710654691b-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1I know the feeling!

In this moment, all I want is for things to feel like Christmas again. I  want it to feel how it used to feel.

This reminded me of the post that I saw where someone wrote something similar to this and someone else responded by saying that “we’re growing up” as in Christmas is for kids. When I was in college I joked with my professor that I believed in Santa Clause but the reason he stopped coming is that once we hit puberty, we are naughty by default. So I understand how Christmas feels different. But I think what makes it different is a form of growing up. We lose some sort of innocence when we have to show up and own up to our lives. Essentially, that is what was happening to Simon when he started feeling like this. He had to come out. It made things different because he no longer had the blissful ignorance of wondering what the future would hold. Because he knew. Everyone at school would know. His friends would now know. Blue knew. Things changed. It was no longer an innocent interaction of e-mails with another gay boy from school. It became real. And realness ruins the magic of Christmas. It will never feel that way it used to feel…but that doesn’t mean it will always feel awkward or uncomfortable.

 

PS. The Oreo craving took a month to settle down.

Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19547856-simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda