nothing happened | 10.19.18

When I was 19 years old, I worked for a hotel as a front desk agent. As you might expect, a lot of weird stuff went on in the hotel. There were undercover cops sent in to bust a bunch of prostitutes, a guest was arrested in the lobby as the suspected gunman in a shooting, a patient who had escaped a nearby psych ward had a breakdown in the at the desk… These all made for good stories, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. There was one guest in particular I want to tell you about – for the sake of this story let’s call him Mr. Tovar.

Now Mr. Tovar was a weird dude. He had an eccentric and loud personality. He was a 46 year old businessman from Virginia, often in the area for meetings at his company’s headquarters. And to spend time with his sugar baby, of course. As he was a regular and he liked to talk quite a bit, I learned some things about him. He was married and had two adolescent children. And yet he would spend way too much time at the front desk to flirt with all of the female staff members. He told the most immature, crude jokes and overall acted in wildly inappropriate ways. Unfortunately, back then I didn’t know how to react in uncomfortable situations like those he put me in. I didn’t even know I was “allowed” to. I did just what I – and many other women – believed was the way to act: look away, maybe smile or laugh, stay quiet but probably don’t say anything. You don’t want to come off as rude or offensive. Mr. Tovar often would suggest that I become his sugar baby, that we should spend time together when I’m not at work. I politely turned him down every time. He didn’t seem to get the message.

I usually worked the evening shift which was about 3 – 10 PM. Because he was a regular, Mr. Tovar was well aware of my closing shifts. I was wrapping up my shift late once, around 10:30 PM when he came down to the lobby. He stayed at the desk while I did all of my closing duties and tried to make conversation. I hardly engaged with him at all. I gathered my things to leave and he offered to walk me to my car. I said “No, thank you. Goodnight, Mr. Tovar” and got in the elevator. He slipped in right behind me as the doors closed. The employee break room and time clock were in the basement through a locked door. I told him again to go back to his room and to please leave me alone. He turned as if to leave, so I headed towards the employee-only area. I punched in the key code and he pushed past me and burst through the door. At this point I was really scared. It was late, no one was around, I didn’t even have cell service to call anyone. I was alone in the basement with this guy. I yelled at him to leave. He waltzed up and down the hallway saying that the “employee-only” rule didn’t apply to him. That he’s above that. I told him that there were security cameras and he said “I know”, looked right at one and waved. After I kept yelling at him he finally came around and I made him get into the elevator. Once the elevator doors closed, I clocked out and ran up the stairs to the parking lot. I got outside and started running to my car when I heard someone call my name. Mr. Tovar had come out of the side door from the lobby and started coming at me. I kept yelling “Leave me alone, get out, go away!” anything to try and get him to back off. I was fumbling around with my keys like an idiot and he got up really close to me. He smiled and said “I hope you have a good night, Caroline. I’ll see you tomorrow” and walked back to the lobby.

Similarly to the situation in my last post, I didn’t want to get myself or him into trouble for what happened. In hindsight, that just doesn’t seem logical at all but at the time it made sense. I didn’t tell anyone what happened until a few weeks later. I met with my manager and the HR director before my shift one day and explained everything. When I began to tell them of his behavior, all of their attention was focused on what I was saying. They showed true concern. When I told them that he ended up leaving and going back into the hotel, I feel like I got the biggest eye-roll from them. They said “well nothing happened did it? Did he touch you? Hurt you?” I said no. They told me to stop being melodramatic, to not waste their time and to get out of the office to start my shift.

I was horrified and embarrassed. I was a teenager and I had been really scared. But then here are three adults who all seemed to think that behavior was nothing to blink at. So I started to think that maybe I really was crazy. This was just another reason I didn’t speak up again about any harassment for a long time. It didn’t seem worth it. Why would I say something when I could spare myself the humiliation and stress. Maybe I really was just being dramatic. Maybe I just needed to toughen up. That’s what I was told and taught for so long.

Just because that behavior it may be has become so normal doesn’t make it okay. Something like this becomes normalized when we are passive to it. Not anymore. Women are speaking out. I want to speak out. People have acted passively towards sexual harassment, assault and various other aspects of rape culture for too long. They don’t seem to understand. If I have the opportunity to talk about it, I ask “What if it was your daughter?” I have found that more often than not the response is “I don’t have to worry about that. Things will be different by the time she grows up”. Will they? Do you really believe that? How will they be different? How could they possibly be different if you don’t do anything to make a change now. Each of us is responsible.

All I know I can do now is talk, learn, listen and do what I feel is right. Sharing my experiences and my thoughts is how I’m trying to make sense of it all. I want to talk and I want to start a discussion. How can we fix a problem if we won’t even face it?

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panacea | 11.06.17

panacea • [pan-uh-see-uh] • noun
1. a remedy for all disease or ills; cure-all
2. an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties

Don’t you sometimes wish that there was some big red button to push, a magic spell that you could recite or that just a simple snap of the fingers could solve all of the world’s problems? Could you imagine? No more wars, no more poverty, no more waiting in line at Costco on a Saturday afternoon. Never again would you have to experiences any depression or face any challenges in your life. Especially with everything that’s going on with the world right now? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish for it.

Unfortunately, there is no real cure-all. There may be false panaceas, but those are only distractions. We only have so much time and so much energy. Spending it wistfully hoping for something that just doesn’t exist doesn’t make sense. Now that’s not to say that we should just give in and decide that the world is always going to be this dark dismal place or that things are always going to be unjust because “that’s life”. Why not take that energy and channel it constructively? Into ways that would incite change and conjure strength. I really do believe that we have the power to change the world.

“There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”

Jim Morrison

I feel that if you focus on figuring out who you are and on learning to love yourself that you will wake up and see everything in a new light. Once you have that strong love radiating inward for yourself, I believe that it will naturally radiate outwards as well. And that it will spread and grow exponentially. Love and fear are the only two fundamental emotions. Love can change the world. I’m trying really hard to change myself and to further educate myself on various teachings and concepts of people who have already made the journey. I have spent the vast majority of my life being programmed to think and feel certain ways and let me tell you – breaking bad habits is so much harder than forming new ones and I never thought forming new habits was easy to begin with. You are the most important person in your life – it all starts with you.

Even though there’s no extraordinary cure or any way to never suffer from any disease – whether physical or otherwise – that doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. Take the time for yourself and soon enough, I think that you will start to see that change that we all hope for.

mitote | 10.23.17

“Sometimes my thoughts get so crazy, they’re like those little bingo balls flying around in that cage or like radio static while trying to tune into a station – any station, just something that comes through clear.”

Yes, I did just quote myself, thank you for asking. It’s an excerpt from one of the posts that I wrote soon after we moved to Oregon. That analogy is how I describe what goes on in my head sometimes. It can be so frustrating. I try so hard to focus, to pinpoint what may have triggered the anxiety or just to think and reflect. Something so simple can be really hard when all you have is a frantic swarm of bees flying around in your head. The blur of thousands of thoughts flying around and the buzz of the background noise that i can’t seem to cancel out. It’s like the scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Harry, Ron and Hermione are ambushed by the horde of magical flying keys. I could keep coming up with analogies but I think you get the idea.

I recently started to read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and was shocked and relieved to find him mention that exact experience. He describes how this mind haze is defined by the Toltecs – ancient Mexican women and men of knowledge. The Toltecs called it mitote. It is the chaos inside one’s mind described as a “poisonous, contagious virus” in which thousands of voices are speaking over each other and not a one understands another. Even if I am able to reach out and grasp one of these flying keys, these bingo balls, it doesn’t quite make sense. There’s some sort of disconnect. Even if I am able to tune into a radio station in my mind, there is still not enough clarity. That is one thing that I have trouble with. Clearing my mind. I’ve tried many things and so far the only thing that even kind of helps to alleviate the feeling is just to write it all down. Word vomit everywhere, just writing my train of thought, whether or not they’re concise thoughts. I’ve tried to meditate without much success so far. I try to spend time practicing these strategies and exploring new ones that may help. I want to develop the skills needed to calm the storm raging through my mind so that I really can take the time to reflect and think. What tactics have helped you to focus and to clear the mind?

live | 10.24.17

A few weeks before my birthday this past summer, I couldn’t stop thinking, “My god… I’m almost twenty-two years old.” Twenty-two. I barely believed that I was going to make it past 18. But I did. And then I turned 19 and thought, “This is it. I just can’t do this anymore. I’m done”, but before I knew it I was 20. I kept going and I didn’t give. There were instances where that was the only thing I desired. All I felt I needed. I sobbed because all I desperately wanted was the ability to just give up. Something inside of me just wouldn’t allow it. Then I turned 21 and started hoping for better days. Now at 22, I’m doing what I can to make every day one of those “better days” I used to fantasize about.

It’s still a little ways away, but I’m already preparing for my next birthday because nobody likes you when you’re 23 (thanks, blink-182). I think I’m funny, whatever. Whether that’s true or not (the “nobody likes you” bit. I know I’m hilarious, that’s not in question), I’m going to continue growing and making the most of my life. I can do that because I’m alive; because I didn’t give up, I get to experience every single part of life. The beauty of nature all around me, of love, of life. I got this far and I’m not stopping anytime soon. Realizing this gave me the courage to keep live, to conquer challenges and to learn more about myself and about the world. That’s when I feel like I really because ready to live.

enlighten | 10.22.17

Today’s Daily Prompt is a pretty fitting one for where I’m at in my life now. The word “enlighten” has come to mean something different to me over these last few months. Out of curiosity, I searched Merriam-Webster for the dictionary definition of the word.

Enlighten \in-ˈlīt-niŋ, -ˈlī-tᵊn-iŋ, en-\
transitive verb

1. archaic: illuminate
2a. to furnish knowledge to: to instruct
2b. to give spiritual insight to
In the past, to enlighten simply meant to me to come to a realization about something; to have light shed upon something that was once dark. That still holds true, of course, but now my understanding is less two-dimensional. It now correlates more to the final definition given by Merriam-Webster. However, now my sense of the word is more difficult to verbalize in as concise of a way as the dictionary definition explains it. “Enlightenment” is used so broadly in so many contexts that it can’t really be pinned down to mean one specific thing. To become enlightened is more than just “Oh, I now understand the thing that once was unclear to me” and then moving on from there. It is a personal, complex, unique and spiritual experience.
For me, enlightenment goes hand in hand with awakening, becoming more conscious and living more intentionally. It goes with making the effort to learn as much as I can from people who have already made this journey; taking bits of their experiences as inspiration to create my own. Anthony De Mello, Eckhart Tolle, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, don Miguel Ruiz, Sam Harris and so many more. They have all adopted practices of enlightenment in one way or another in their lives and have been a huge inspiration to myself and countless others. Whether explicitly spiritual or not, the ideas and stories that they share provide the tools needed to take control of your life. Learning who you are, unprogramming yourself from society’s rules and living a more meaningful life. That’s what it means to me and that is what I strive to achieve.
Every day I try to read more of their writings or about the concepts mentioned in them, I try to write or listen to podcasts and watch documentaries. I try to incorporate these things into my daily life so that I can continue to learn, to change and to become more enlightened. I keep a running list on my blog here of things that have inspired me and been of value to me. So these are some of the things that came to mind when prompted to think about and write on the word “enlighten”. What does the word mean to you?

via Daily Prompt: Enlighten

fighting the good fight | 10.20.17

One thing that I’ve heard a lot over the years is how I – and others – are “battling” depression, “beating” depression. I guess that’s true. As hard as it gets sometimes, I’m going to keep fighting it and keep moving forward. If nothing else, it’s all I’ve done these past few years. I don’t like those phrases though because they insinuate that depression is something that must be defeated before one can live their life. That there’s something inherently wrong and needs to be fixed. Well, surprise everyone – I haven’t been fixed, I haven’t been cured but I’m still able to find happiness in life. I’m finding peace.

IMG_6455.jpg
Beale Street, Memphis, TN

One of my new favorite artists and Instagrammers is Bunny Michael. They create “Higher Self Memes” that are posted daily. As they said in an interview with Posture Magazine, “the Higher Self memes are messages of self-love and expressions of how we can all treat ourselves better, that we are more powerful than we even realize.” One of the first ones that was shown to me was this:

bunny michael meme
@bunnymichael

I love their memes because they’re funny and relatable and so, so very spot on. I feel like the spiritual path, personal growth, recovering from living with mental illness… All of those go hand in hand. It’s never as easy as it seems. It sounds like growing spiritually would be a journey filled with rainbows and butterflies, but more likely it will be a stormy one. Even though I’m learning and growing, and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction, this journey is by no means an easy one. I still struggle, I stumble, I fall. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it can be painful. I have wanted to give up more than anything. But you know what? I know that it is worth it. Becoming more of a spiritual person, more enlightened, more aware isn’t just a trend or hobby, or a cool, hip thing that the kids do these days. It’s more than that. It’s a change in lifestyle that requires effort throughout your lifetime. It’s something that brings change, compassion, understanding and consciousness into your life and into the world.

People always say that it’s harder to break a bad habit. I always thought that would refer to biting your nails or picking your nose. Bad habits are easy to pick up and often go unnoticed until they’ve become an integral part of our daily lives, so much so that they’re hard to just let go. For example, I’ve spent my whole life being told certain things and being led to believe these false ideas about myself and my life. I wasn’t happy and I developed a negative way of thinking and of being. I used to be in such a bad place and I would go through these cycles, trying my hardest to develop good habits and practice self care and then falling back to square one. I tried everything. Nothing seemed to work. I honestly don’t remember how I got to where I am now, but I think that’s part of it. I wasn’t feeding into the negative as much. I didn’t actively participate in the defeatist attitude I had acquired. I didn’t always focus on it and let myself stew over all the negativity floating around inside me. Gradually, I was able to naturally pull myself out of that hole. Just by being. Existing. Becoming aware of all of this makes it a bit easier to move forward. That being said, it’s still hard as hell but I’m trying to understand more in order to find peace.

Since being back in Maryland, I’ve run into more than a few challenges and roadblocks but I’ve always found my way back on track. I really am trying to make a more conscious effort to do right by me and to do the things that will help me to continue on this journey. I signed up for a bunch of courses on Udemy that I am very eager to dive into. I’m teaching myself about photography. I’m reading more – right now I’ve picked up The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello again, as well as The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. I highly recommend both of these books to anyone and everyone. They’re such easy reads but are so eye-opening and powerful. I’m trying to get outside into nature more, too. Doing the little things that I know will aid me in increasing my physical, mental and emotional well-being. A couple of steps forward, a couple back, but I’m still trying and I’m still fighting. A lot of the things I write about are lessons that I have learned and am trying to put into practice into my own life. I am by no means an expert. I have to work really hard every day to unlearn everything that I have been programmed to accept and to reteach myself how to be.

What kinds of things do you do that help you get out of a funk? Or that you feel helps you grow and move forward? Or even just things that you do that make you happy, that you’re passionate about? I would love to hear about them!

by the numbers | 10.12.17

  • 5,100 miles, 100+ hours driving
  • 17 days
  • 11 states
  • 3 National Parks
  • 10 nights Walmart car camping
  • 80+ tortillas, 2 jars of peanut butter and 20+ energy drinks
  • A handful of new friends made
  • 5 bagels, 7 muffins and 4 bananas taken from a Hampton Inn
  • Countless new experiences, lessons learned and adventures had

0836her-R2-052-24A

I’ve had a couple of days back in Maryland to try and settle back in and look back again on this trip. I did the math, mostly out of curiosity to get the stats from this trip. Miles and hours driven, gas used, states crossed, tortillas eaten… After having done all of that, it just became even more evident to me that the trip as a whole was absolutely unquantifiable. No set of numbers can describe this experience. No maps or data can really convey the nature of this journey. The way that this trek made me feel was both emotionally and physically draining and yet revitalizing. The adventures that we went on, everywhere that we explored. The gourmet meals we prepared, such as campfire pasta and an array of tortilla combos – peanut butter and Nutella, bananas, potato chips, granola, Taco Bell hot sauce… Any and all combinations you could think of. Sounds good, doesn’t it? That became our comfort food. All of these things (and more) formed every experience and every day on the road. I don’t have words to describe what an experience this trip was. I can try, but I don’t feel like anything I could come up would stand up to what it really was. I’m just happy to be back home (and in a real bed) so that I can begin a whole new adventure.