August 9, 2018
Dear Darkened Rose,
Please know that I have missed you this past year, gently and quietly.
I have discovered that building my education has been my most efficient remedy against my diminished self-worth. I am proud of how these past few semesters turned out, and I believe a great deal of that is due to my shift in focus. I am attempting to dig more into my role as a student. Doing so has allowed me to start believing that I am entirely capable of earning the title I am working towards—Oie Anne, MA, LPC. Which is still, at the very minimum, several years away.
In one of my psychology classes, we discussed this idea of the self-verification theory.
This theory has helped me gain clarity about my past behaviors. My understanding of this concept is that it is a fear of giving up personal identity (whether that be a good or bad idea of self), that we merely sustain for reasons of coherency. Maintaining consistency in our roles (despite how detrimental it can be to our self-esteem), brings us an odd sense of comfort. These roles are a reliable state that our personalities will often retreat to, and this constant retraction can create inefficient cycles.
Congruent to this year-long process of trying to write this letter, I found that Mark Manson wrote an article on procrastination and the relevance that it has to the self-verification theory (he quips by naming it Manson’s Law, but catch the 4th footnote). As I was reading the article for the first time, I really resonated with how much I had always identified with being a college drop-out (amongst several other unproductive titles). I, admittedly, use to fancy myself as a knowledgeable person, but I never wanted to test the reality of that insofar as to have to put effort into going back to school. Because, as it turns out, some of that work amounted to having to swallow the hard truth that I have lived a relatively uneducated life.
My intelligence is debatable, but my ignorance is not.
Truthfully, I know very little about most things (or, significantly less than I would like to, at least). This might be an attribute of myself that I should be ashamed of. Although, I prefer to believe that becoming more attuned to this ignorance has helped me find the necessary solutions that I need to grow more capable of redirecting stagnant paths. To find direction, and to just DO something.
In the past year, I have seen that working towards my educational goals was an opportunity (granted, a stressful one that forces me to poorly grapple with my perfectionist tendencies) for kicking me out of my own cycles. I saw that I needed a reasonable amount of familiarity with proper critical thinking skills so that I might have the ability to have healthier conversations, broadened community, and the accessibility to impact my surroundings better. All of which I seemed to have been avoiding for quite some time because I was a bit of a self-righteous depressive. [Quick sidenote: As I have mentioned before—when discussing depression—I never felt that this state should be construed as mere laziness. It is strictly ever-present purposelessness that can still be hard to shake at times. Self-righteous, maybe, but not lazy nor worthy of neglect from misunderstood parties.]
But back to this: So…duh, right? As the saying goes—Knowledge is Power. Muahahaha.
That is to say that I now have more faith in a positive connotation to power. Apart from some people’s corruptive agendas, knowledge can create advantages for the good-hearted. I like to believe that knowledgeable, powerful altruists exist. I aspire to be one. Because, you know, the meek will inherit the Earth, or whatever.
I recognize time and time again that I have to overcome stale self-verification cycles to move forward in life. This often takes abandoning my various states of contentment (i.e., sitting on the couch, feeling caught up with every interesting tv show, watching ASMR videos, and just staying home because close connections and society tempt and exhaust me). I have to push through realigning myself with something I never fully identified with—not being a failure. I have to confront the fact that I could always have loads of work to do, and that may not change for a very long time (if ever). I am working towards clarifying my responsibilities and fine-tuning my legacy (loaded word—I know—but bear with me), and I am finally prepared enough in life to do so. Again, I may ALWAYS have work to do, and that is soundly ok.
Manson constructs a theory in another one of his articles, of there being four stages of life.
He makes a good argument that we are all working towards our ultimate legacy. The more I reflect on this, the more I decipher between things that have no relevance to the progression of my own personal impact on this world. I have begun to firmly identify the actions that exist in the first two stages of life. Things like purchasing name brand materials, focusing on body image, living in envy, over-indulging in self-discovery, not recognizing valuable commitments, reposting articles not written by myself and mimicking their message (whoops). This recognition helps me find more drive to eliminate the need for those devices. Only then can I remain sharply present to build my own sense of empowerment. On that note, a big question I have for you is this–
Did you know what you wanted your legacy to be?
I know you gave birth to three pretty neat children, and I know you were an influential role in the lives of many of the students you taught. Were those your central goals in life? Did you reach all that you set out to achieve? I feel this need to live for you and to find some resolve for your life by finding satisfaction with my own. (Douse this next sentence in sarcasm) What I have learned from several self-help books is that serenity can be easy to come by. It just requires finding the ability to be comfortable in the present.
But what does that even mean? I usually recognize that I just have to force my mind to get to the present. Having my mind constantly stuck in my future is a sure way to get me absolutely [fudg]ing nowhere. Once I arrive in the present (via my DeLorean), I find a way to remind myself to just look for something to do; anything.
One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.
I royally screw up with this process more often than not. Lately, I have been able to catch a fleeting glimpse of extended moments of peace, and I force myself to describe the moment in a whisper, or write it down, or type it out on my phone over and over and over again (that’s peaceful, right?). As tedious as it may be, I do this as to not let it pass too quickly before recognizing it. It seems like a juvenile psychological tool, but I have neglected to implement this element in the recent past. I am trying to be committed to finding this sense of peace to facilitate even more appreciation for my achievement.
Several months ago, my friend Aleyda mentioned that she finds joy in nature. She made a simple statement that went something along the lines of, “If I stopped recognizing the beauty of things outside, I think it would be easily recognizable that I was depressed.” I really resonated with that; not only with nature but with the idea of the kids. Ian, Bae, and Bowie have been my meters for sanity. They make me happy. I feel this comfort through a concrete sense of presence around them. Although, in 2016, things were different. Very different. I was depressed. I could not recognize how happy they made me because I was so concerned about my own struggles.
I reflect on that to know that now my sanity has been mostly restored (mostly being the operative word). I cherish my moments with them, and I believe I do well keeping myself away from that place where I once found a quickness to irritability and numbness. Diving into studying the psychology of children makes watching their growth so much more interesting. I have learned where my responsibilities lie within my role as being their Aunt, and I try to find ways of developing through them.
The thing about recognizing powerful moments—
I have recently come to this connection with a spiritual concept of synchronicity (some religions may subscribe to this idea as being Divine Intervention, but I’ll stick with calling it synchronicity). I have found powerful moments that throw me off course of negative thought pathways. I have almost felt your essence in these times. As if you have been in the background of so many moments attempting to cheer me up or encourage me to get up and to hop into a cycle of motivation. I know that may all sound a bit hokey, but I find these moments to be very oddly meaningful in their timing (as a lesser explanation of their worth).
- I have stumbled on some vibrant sunsets after difficult, dreary days.
- I found there to be something special about this moment that I came home after hearing a gut-wrenching story about The Grammys/Grammy/you. When I walked in the door, I wanted nothing more than to sink into the couch and sob uncontrollably. But when I walked into the house, I found the dried up “darkened rose” from your funeral on the ground. The window was open, and the wind blew it from the little ceramic thing I was keeping it in. My immediate reaction was just to smile. I tucked it into a ziplock (to keep the parts of it together), pressed it in an old textbook, and did not cry. Hence me coming here to write this paragraph about the joy in it, versus succumbing to any sense of frustration or sadness.
- The longest bout of synchronicity has been in my experience with the Texas plants this year. I felt a purposeful staggering in their blooming. When one seemed to no longer be as fresh or no longer holding its petals, the next stepped in.
First the Texas Mountain Laurels—I often caught myself just sitting and staring at the growth of my own baby bush on the side of the house (which had one small little bloom this year). There are several of these trees on Texas State’s campus, and they created that identifiable smell of grape kool-aid. It made the inclined trek to classes slightly less grueling.
Then the bluebonnets. Everywhere. Along the long drive to San Marcos.
Following that, was the blossoming of the rose-buds on my bush in our front yard (I counted 16ish at one time!!!). After getting out of my car, you could usually find me flared-nostrils-deep in some red and white beauts. It has been consistently blooming with one or two on the bush, since the first big wave.
And now our crepe myrtles are flowering off one by one. Creating this white and pink confetti all over our yard. Their dead petals dropping everywhere used to drive me mad (I know, I was such a grumpus). It was not until Janie and Brandon sought out a baby one at a nursery and planted it in their yard that I realized how much I should be appreciating them.
I asked myself—”How could you not just enjoy them before?” Then, I force myself to step back in the DeLorean.
All of that said, it may very well be a miracle that I was able to keep the impulse at bay and not create a lame title for this post that read “Stop to Smell Flowers.” Instead, I kept my reference to Game of Thrones to remind myself how long it’s taken to complete this.
I still spend a lot of my days nervous, bored, curious, nervous, sober (that’s right; still rocking that status exponentially more often than not), hungry, ready to exercise, attempting to make healthy food choices, nervous, tired of studying, nervous, exhausted, and really just nervous. Such is the life of a student. Today, I am committed to learning so that I may grow towards my own legacy of sharing peace with others. I’ll see how that goes.
I love you. I miss you.
Enclosed are cool things.
The Song: Victory Dance by My Morning Jacket