Hope

Four days before we broke up, my then-boyfriend and I had a conversation (well, “emotional breakdown crying session” may be the more accurate term for my end of things ;) ) about, among other things, outlooks on life, specifically the difference between approaching life from a negative place and approaching life from a positive place. I have firmly fallen into the first camp for years and years, believing that if I expected the worst, I would never be disappointed. (Spoiler alert: this doesn’t really work.) He, on the other hand, saw life very differently. While I, consciously or subconsciously, consistently chose over and over again to focus on the negative aspect of any and/or every situation, he chose to find the bright side and focus on that instead. He suggested trying that out to see if I could do it, and I took that challenge seriously.

buddingtree

If there has ever been a month of my life where I could get away with wallowing, this month would be it. I mean, good heavens, in the space of 15 days, my boyfriend dumped me and my dog died. I don’t think anyone would particularly fault me for being down in the dumps, antisocial, or just generally in a bad mood. And don’t get me wrong — that has absolutely happened more than once over the past couple weeks. I can’t remember another month where I’ve cried so much or felt so emotionally exhausted, and there have been plenty of moments where I simply have not had it in me to even try to find a positive side, never mind focus on that positive side.

I normally don’t have much use for March, lost boyfriends and dead dogs aside. I feel like March tends to promise all of these great things–the end of winter, the end of dark days, the end of cold weather and snow, the end of hibernation–but it rarely delivers, or if it does deliver, it doesn’t deliver all the way. It’ll give you a taste of what’s to come, but as soon as it cracks 50 degrees, it plummets back down to 20 and you wake up to a fresh coating of snow that forces you to drag out your boots and parka again, grumbling about how you hate this city and it’s stupid weather and I am moving to California this time, darn it, and that’s not an empty threat!!

But this March, I have been particularly struck by all the newness around me. In the midst of all of this loss in my life, I walk outside and see nothing but the promise of rebirth. I see annuals poking up through the thawed soil, promising to turn into tulips or daffodils or crocuses in due time. I see itty bitty buds on trees and shrubs, still closed up tight against the chill, but promising to burst into bloom soon enough. I hear birds chirping when I leave in the morning, and on very special occasions, I once again see the neighborhood rabbit hopping around. And every time I see these things, hear these things, experience these things, a familiar refrain comes to mind: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.”

Sunday’s comin’, you guys. It’s comin’. Of course that spoken word piece refers to Good Friday and Easter, but in this “Good Friday” season of my life, where I have every reason to lose hope, every reason to be negative, every reason to feel like all is lost, I am constantly reminded by what I see outside that Sunday is comin’. That it’s darkest before dawn. That new life comes from death. That pain may last the night, but joy comes in the morning.

I don’t know if there is any emotion I’ve actively tried to destroy in my own life more than hope. I’ve hated feeling hopeful, because more often than not, I’ve felt like hope was the source of so much pain for me. I hoped for x, y, or z, and when it didn’t happen, the disappointment was crushing. I loathed that feeling, so it seemed best to try to just stop hoping. But right now, when it should be so easy for me to destroy any hope I feel before it even has a chance to take root, I’ve felt more hopeful than ever, because everything I see points me to hope.

I don’t have any more of a clue what my future holds than I did three months ago, or six months ago, or a year ago, or at any other point in recent memory. But instead of letting that uncertainty freeze me in terror like usual, I’m inspired by the opportunity. I see possibility. I see growth. I see new experiences and new challenges and new people and new goals. I see hope.

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.

8 Comments

Filed under Life

My Bestest Fwend: A Tribute

Once upon a time, 14 and a half years ago, Bethany was a gangly, bespectacled, awkward fifth grader. She went to a very small school and had exactly two friends. She had a reputation amongst her classmates as being the teacher’s pet. There was nothing particularly wrong with Bethany’s life, though to say she was a happy 10 year old would probably be a bit generous. She was shy, she was too studious and serious for the rest of her rambunctious class’s taste, and she was absolutely petrified of graduating elementary school and going to middle school the next year. She was 10 going on 40 (some may argue, and not entirely incorrectly, that she has always been and continues to be insert-age-here going on 40), while those around her were 10 going on, you know, 11.

One night, Bethany and her family sat around the table, partaking in their usual family dinner. Conversation happened, and at one point, Bethany’s dad said something very much like, “Well, we’re going to have to start figuring puppy chow into the budget.”

PUPPY CHOW?! That delicious wonderful chocolate/peanut butter/powdered sugared Chex concoction?! Mom made puppy chow for dessert??

“No,” Bethany’s dad clarified. “Real puppy chow. Puppy chow for a dog.”

Well!

On a sunny afternoon in October, when Bethany, her brother, and sister all had the day off of school, Bethany’s aunt drove the hour from her house to Bethany’s house with a little six month old puppy in tow. He was, allegedly, a rat terrier, though his coloring looked nothing like that of a usual rat terrier. His name, officially, was Louie, though as time would go on, Bethany would cease to call him Louie, instead choosing to refer to him by his various nicknames: Louis, Poochie, Cwittewy Face, and finally: Bestest Fwend.

dog

(Bethany may or may not speak like a three year old in referring to her dog, but that is neither here nor there.)

Bethany had been a major proponent of the family’s acquisition of a dog from the get-go. She had asked for a dog for months and months and months, and immediately took the newest family member under her wing. She played tug of war with him with his blankets. She fed him scraps from the table. She’d chase him around when he’d go on a tear through the house, running as if his life depended on it, high on energy.

If fifth grade was not-so-great for Bethany from an interacting-with-others standpoint, it was only a cruel preview of what was to come in middle and high school. Bethany struggled mightily to make friends throughout the rest of her education. She had friends, of course — people she could sit with on the jungle gym at recess, or talk to in the hall during break — but she only had a handful at most, and regardless of who made up her handful, she always felt like second best. Though she had individual friends, she never had a friend group, and never felt like she could relate well to her peers, still being far too serious and far too studious for most of their tastes.

But it was okay, because she had her Bestest Fwend. Every day when she would come home, her dog–no longer officially a puppy, though still acting like one–would come bounding through the kitchen to say hello, jumping up and giving her kisses. It didn’t matter that she had a really lousy cross country meet, or that the popular girls were making fun of her for her obsession with American Juniors, or that she was really stressed out by exam week: he was always there, always happy to see her, always excited that she was there.

chicagomarathonposter

Late in eighth grade, Bethany discovered the magic that is interacting with others on the Internet. Armed with her knack for writing and confidence that brought, she began writing fan fictions and posting them online, honing both her voice and her editing skills over the next several years. She began to develop incredible friendships with people halfway around the globe–one with a girl in Scotland and one with a girl in Calgary, to be specific–that finally filled the friendship void she felt in her life.

But those friends couldn’t physically be there for her when no one asked her to a single Christmas Dance all four years of high school, or when no one asked her to prom her senior year. Those friends couldn’t be there for her when all of her real life friends went off in their respective groups to hang out for the weekend, leaving her alone. Those friends couldn’t be there for her when she felt useless and ugly and unlikeable.

But her Bestest Fwend was.

dog3

Granted, he couldn’t offer much sage wisdom, but he could sit there with her while she cried. He could cuddle up next to her and make her feel that even if none of her peers loved her, at least he did, always and unconditionally. After all, they were bestest fwends.

Bethany continued to grow and went off to college, which, like high school and middle school, proved to be an enormous struggle in the friend department, at least for the first two years. When Bethany would get very sad and feel very lonely, she wanted one thing: to go home to her Bestest Fwend, who would bark at her incessantly until she would pet him, who would sprawl out in the middle of her double bed with his legs stretched, leaving her with no room to sleep or move, who would lose his mind when she so much as touched his leash to suggest going for a walk, who would sit with her by the pool while she read.

bestestfwend

After college, Bethany moved to Chicago. Though she was excited to begin her new adventure, she was a little concerned about her Bestest Fwend. After all, he was 12 years old when she moved, and she didn’t think dogs lived a whole lot beyond that. She made sure every time she came home to give him lots of extra love and attention, just in case it was the last time.

He kept living, though, and made it to his 13th birthday, and then his 14th birthday. His health had clearly deteriorated. He had developed arthritis in his hips in 2013, and by 2014 seemed to have come down with a case of canine Alzheimer’s. When Bethany returned to Chicago after #gradfest2014, she gave her parents her permission to put him down. But they didn’t. He made it through Thanksgiving, and then made it through Christmas as well.

fwendatchristmas

It was quite clear to Bethany at Christmas that her puppy would not make it much longer. He could no longer eat from his bowl easily–she would hand feed him when he seemed hungry–and he never seemed to know what was going on or what he needed. It was heartwrenching.

One evening when Bethany was home, her Bestest Fwend stood over by his food bowl, looking generally confused and out of it. Bethany’s parents thought perhaps he should go outside, but no one could get his attention.

fwendonbed

“Louie!” Bethany called. “Louie, come here!”

He didn’t move.

“Bestest Fwend?”

He turned his old creaky neck, looked at Bethany, and waddled over so she could let him outside.

Bethany knew when she returned to Chicago that he would not last much longer. She said goodbye. Not goodbye as in, “See you later.” Not goodbye as in, “Until next time.” Goodbye as in forever–a hopeless goodbye. A permanent goodbye. The most heartbreaking kind of goodbye. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it should.)

fwend2013

On Tuesday, Bethany’s dad sent an email to her and her sister, informing them that he and their mother had decided, and their brother, home for spring break, had agreed, that it was time for his life to end. They would allow him to live through his birthday–March 18, a date decided upon by Bethany because March 18 is her half birthday–but then, at 9:30 a.m. (Michigan time) on March 19, would take him to the vet to put him down.

Though it came as no surprise, it was still difficult to swallow. Bethany, though substantially improved from two weeks ago, still certainly had her mourning moments over her ended relationship, and really felt as though she had gone through enough permanent loss (and enough tears) for one month, thank you. But life has its own timing far beyond Bethany’s control.

She FaceTimed with her family and her puppy one last time on Wednesday night, both to wish him a happy birthday and to see his face once more. And she ended the conversation the same way she has for years and years and years, “So long, Bestest Fwend.”

lastpictureofdafwend

So long.

16 Comments

Filed under Life

Too Old for This

If I had to pick a theme for this weekend, that ^^ would be it.

I kicked things off Friday night with a “party” at my best friend’s place. To my understanding, multiple people had been invited originally, but nearly everyone bailed, so this party ended up being me, my best friend, and one of our other friends. As you can imagine, it was a rip-roarin’ good time. Haha. (Actually, I did enjoy myself just fine. I always enjoy spending time with my friends, even if it’s just a low key sort of thing.) I intended to leave NO LATER than 10:00, because I needed to get up early Saturday morning to run. Then I left at 11:15. Oops.

I drug my sleep-deprived self out of bed Saturday morning and got my act together so I could meet up with my CARA friends for a run. Last Saturday, one of my group leaders invited me to come run with them, but in a tragic turn of events I didn’t see the message until hours after I (and they) had finished running, so I ended up doing five solo miles. BUT not to be thwarted from miles with friends this week, I made sure to get to Waveland well before CARA groups take off. Originally I planned to do all six of my miles with CARA, but they took a different route than normal, so I ended up just doing two with them before finishing the rest on my own. Regardless, it was WONDERFUL to run with company, even if only for a little bit :)

Saturday, of course, was St. Patrick’s Day (Observed) in Chicago, and having no desire to associate myself with that madness, I would’ve been quite content to spend all day holed up in my apartment, far, far away from the outside, green-clad, drunken world. However, Saturday was also 1) Macy’s One Day Sale day, 2) dance day and 3) Pi Day, so I steeled myself and headed out around noon. While the CTA was substantially busier than normal for a Saturday, fortunately most of my fellow travelers were not totally gone, with one girl who found it necessary to broadcast her various sexual exploits in disturbing detail to all of the train being the one glaring exception.

Macy’s proved to be a safe haven, because surprisingly, not that many people felt compelled to buy new bedding during the parade downtown. Weird, right? For the first time in my entire life, I’m actually making more money than I need to simply survive in Chicago, and I have decided that it is high time for me to grow the heck up. My bedroom, as it stood, was decorated in what I would describe as “Target ’08 College Line Chic,” which was all well and good when it was, you know, 2008 and I was, you know, entering my first year of college. As you may have noticed, it has not been 2008 for quite some time, and I’ve been out of college for so long that after graduation this May, everyone who attended college at the same time I attended college with be done. Also, my comforter was benzoyl peroxide bleached, sun faded, and literally falling apart at the seams. Time to upgrade.

Purchasing bedding turned out to be WAY more difficult than I anticipated. ALL OF THE CHOICES. After consulting with my mother (let’s not kid ourselves into thinking I’m actually grown up. I’m just trying to give off that appearance.), I settled on this scheme:

macysbedding

which, courtesy of Macy’s One Day Sale doorbusters, was all of $32 including tax. Heyo! Normally it retails for $100, so I was quite pleased with myself. AND I had a gift card from Christmas…so even though I’m now richer than God (or at least it feels that way), I still didn’t actually spend my own money on this. Haha. Good work, self. However, I do plan on buying a new rug to fit my new color scheme (everything I owned previous was teal/green/brown), so I will eventually spend money. My current apartment also has a lot of outdoor living space opportunities that we have taken no advantage of whatsoever, so I’m hoping to put together a bit of an urban flower garden and buy some outdoor furniture sometime this spring. Breakfast and reading on the porch: coming soon to my apartment.

I foolishly left Macy’s RIGHT as the parade ended, and proceeded to curse the sea of drunken out-of-towners trying to understand how to walk on State Street. But I survived (#blessed) and made it to dance unscathed.

Blaze, also known as THE BEST deal on food in all of Chicago/the universe, was having THE BEST promotion of all time on Saturday: $3.14 pizzas in honor of Pi Day. Blaze, for the uninitiated, is a Chipotle/Subway-style place where you can build your own pizza putting on as many toppings as you want (and they have a lot of toppings available) for a flat rate of less than $8 — except on Saturday, when that flat rate was $3.14. Even though I got there around 3:30 in the afternoon, the place was absolutely swamped.

blazepiday

It only took about 30 minutes from the time I got in line until the time I got my pizza, however, which I brought home with me and then immediately demolished, because I was STARVING.

blazepiday2

I chilled for most of the evening, and then mustered up my courage again and met with my best friend so we could at long last see Big Gigantic live. As I mentioned when this show was announced, I’ve waited about a year and a half for this to happen, so I was pretty stoked.

biggigantic

O.M.G. Now, I’ve been to a pretty good amount of shows over the past couple of years, and I’d estimate that at least half of them have been EDM, so I’m no stranger to loud music. But MY GOSH. Never before have a left a show with noticeably impaired hearing, but I definitely did on Saturday night. My friend assured me it would go away, but I nevertheless was pretty freaked out and am seriously considering investing in a good pair of ear plugs for future shows, because man, once you lose that business, it’s gone forever. While I may feel too old for St. Patrick’s Day, my college bedroom decor, and loud music, I am definitely WAY too young to lose my hearing.

I was an absolute zombie on Sunday as a result of my Friday and Saturday night shenanigans. “Functional” would’ve been generous. I met one of my good friends from college at Sugar Fixe in Lincoln Park that afternoon, which woke me up a bit (though I did TOTALLY blow my one legit chance in Lent to eat sweets. Sunday was relaxation Sunday, which, according to my aspiring seminarian sister, means it’s okay to break your fast. was not aware of this, however [the fast breaking, that is. I knew it was relaxation Sunday per the sermon in church that morning], so I just got tea. ALAS.

Did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this weekend?

16 Comments

Filed under Life