No. 51 – Your Cup

No. 51 – Your Cup

Kendrae and I had a fight the other day over something so stupid. I’m embarrassed to admit that it started over a Mason jar lid. Yeah… But as any couple knows, it’s never about the lid. The lid merely served as a catalyst for what had been there lying dormant, unaddressed.

So we had our little “fight” if one could even call it that. We don’t often have fights so neither of us are very good at them. My feelings were hurt, and so were his. And we spent the rest of the afternoon in tension but weren’t able to discuss it further because we were around others. Which was fine, it didn’t give either one of us the opportunity to sit and stew in the fight. We had to get over it for the time being and go on about the rest of our day.

After an initial 15-minute car ride of awkward uncomfortableness we both moved on. We could either make our friends feel uncomfortable while we carried our personal fight into their time, or we could let it go. We didn’t forget the fight, it happened. We both apologized, but the interaction we had with each other didn’t quite leave the back of my mind.  When you live with a person, you’re eventually not going to agree about something. You may even grate each other the wrong way from time to time. But after the emotions settled down, I realized how trivial the entire argument was. Welcome to most arguments.

Today, my yoga teacher shared this beautiful metaphor. And it’s an explanation that I’ve heard before, but didn’t make much of an impression until now. It reads:

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you, making you spill your coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? “Well because someone bumped into me, of course!” Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. The point is whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which will happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled. So we have to ask ourselves… “what’s in my cup?” When life gets tough, what spills over? Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility? Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions? You choose! Today let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation, kindness, gentleness and love for others.

I sent a photo of this text to Kendrae and asked what was in his cup. He replied, coffee, then water. Coffee representing self-reflection and rejuvenation. Water representing life. You need it to live. “I don’t have tea because I stay away from gossip.”

I smiled because he gave the question deeper thought than I intended. But then I was befuddled when my own question was posed back to me. What’s in your cup?

Sure, I’d like to think that my cup is overflowing with sunshine and good times. But what about when I’m driving and I miss my exit? Not much goodness spilling out there. Or what about when a student of mine sneezes all over my face? Yeah…not my shining moment either. Or how about when I feel let down by my family? Yikes…forgiveness doesn’t quite flow so easily.

Or how about a few days ago, when I got into a fight with my husband? Did I emulate compassion, understanding and open ears, or was I merely focused on proving my point?

After some thought, I’ve come to this conclusion. Proving a point is not worth more than loving my partner. Coming from an exceptionally competitive person, this was tricky to admit. You don’t win an argument with your spouse. In trying to prove the other one wrong, you both lose. You win, by trying to understand where your partner is coming from. You win in trying to share your feelings in a way that doesn’t point blame. You win in being open to apologize if you’ve caused pain. You win by not trying to win.

Alright so my cup may have some gunk in there, but it’s not all bad right? Maybe I do have water in my cup, but it’s still a little murky. Needing some major filtration work to eliminate those impurities. Or maybe it’s deeper than selecting one metaphorical beverage of choice. Maybe what I choose to fill my cup with today, will not be the same drink I select a week from now. Maybe what’s filling my cup will change. Sometimes my cup is filled with wine. I’m sure not letting a single drop of that spill over! Maybe the parts of me that are more refined can constantly be spilled out and refilled over and over again. Because we’re all called to pour out our gifts in some fashion.

But maybe to rid my vessel of the ugly parts, they must first be exposed. I can’t refill my cup with gratitude if I haven’t first dumped out my selfishness. Which is bound to spill out at some point. I can’t replace bitterness with kindness if my bitterness hasn’t been emptied out of my glass. While it is beautiful to want to only pour out the good, I am also realistic. I am human. I will never have a cup full of only goodness and love. But I can work on dolling out those drinks to as many people as often as I can. And anytime I find my cup is dry, I can be intentional about what I’m selecting to hold in it.

Life, relationships, other people are always going to come along and shake you up. It’s inevitable. The moral of the story is not who bumped you, or how hard or for how long. Or how much coffee you had in your cup. We all have our own messes. What is important is that we work towards filling our cups with things that are lovely and pure. A more eloquent painting of the platitude, garbage in, garbage out.  You can only pour out into the world what you already have inside. You can dress up your cup with the most beautiful shell. But you can’t hide what spills over. No matter how pretty the dressing may be. So if you don’t like what spills onto the floor after a good hard shake, clean up your mess and refill.

xxx

Sig

 

No. 45 – This Season

No. 45 – This Season

The cool, gentle breeze

dances all around me

cloaking me in an unseen embrace

comforting

reassuring

fulfilling

joining me in my solitude

carrying the loneliness away

in its arms

while wrapping me up in another

cupping my face

tenderly steeling my faith.

Rejuvenated by the presence

so palpable and thick

my spirit and my face lift up,

skyward

a welcome greeting from the sun

meets my skin with a warmth

that penetrates to the depths of my soul.

winter is over.

spring is here and with it,

a season of flourishing growth.

my lips spread into a smile

for it is this season I have been waiting.

Author’s Note: So I heard that it’s National Poetry Month…? What! How did I not know this was a thing until now. So fun fact about me, poetry was actually my first exposure to writing when I was younger. I used to LOVE writing poetry. Now naturally when I was six, most of my poems rhymed or were accompanied by a tune I made up. I’d like to think I’ve strengthened that muscle since then.

For me, poetry has always been a refreshing creative outlet. To me, poetry is painting with words, and each reader gets to use the colors you’ve laid out to paint their own picture as they read. It’s beautiful.

Lately, all my thoughts have turned into poetry. Walking to my car, on my lunch break, sipping coffee in the morning. Maybe it’s the fresh spring air, or maybe I just needed the creative outlet more than I realized, because the past few weeks, I’ve written a poem a day. Sometimes even several.

This little piece came to me as I was sitting out on my patio, soaking in the spring sun. Rereading it now brings me right back to that moment in time. Peaceful, refreshing and full of promise. That’s what Spring feels like to me. A time for new growth, A time for shedding those winter layers and allowing yourself to blossom. It is my hope that these words do just that for you too.

xxx

Sig

 

No. 44 – Rest

No. 44 – Rest

Need a mid-week pick-me-up? How about a mid-chapter pick-me-up? That’s been me these past few weeks. I’ve been weary friends. Emotionally, mentally, and physically fatigued.

In this fast-paced society we live in were told we should always be striving for more. More work, mo money, more accomplishments, more self-care . And I agree, a stagnant life is a life unfulfilling. But at some point, I can’t take any more of anything. Trying to balance a full-time job, full-time marriage, side hustling, and writing a blog while also trying to better myself by working out, and stimulating my mind is exhausting. I got tired just typing it all out. When you’re in a season of growth it’s not easy, it’s uncomfortable and often tiring. I’m not writing this to say, don’t be so tired. Because reality is, sometimes we need to be tired as we work towards a better version of ourselves. I am writing this to acknowledge you in your season of striding.

A few days ago on my lunch break while sitting in my car with my windows open, absorbing the fresh air, I penned this love note to myself. And after writing it, I read it several more times that day and the next few days after that. And each time I read it, I feel rejuvenated. Its a reminder that even in the process of running after our dreams, we still need to prioritize rest. Not quitting, not abandonment, rest. So it is my sincere hope that these words encourage and rejuvenate you in the same way they have done for me.

When weary, dear one,Rest.

But never cease.

For there will be many times

Your aching muscles will be screaming

At you to give up

To lay down and wait for death.

But never cease.

Pause and catch your breath

Remember why you started

And fan that flame as you press onward

Gaze forward, head high

But never cease.

In those moments of defeat

You will gain your inner strength

Fortitude that is powerful enough

To propel you forward

When you believe there is nothing left.

When you grow weary time and time again,

Rest, but never cease.

In short, grab a coffee, or in my case a chai tea from Epic Gelato and take a moment to rest.

No. 42 – The Key

No. 42 – The Key

Two weeks ago, I dished on my first Valentine’s Day and how it was so perfect. It was easy to write about because it had a happy ending. But the first 21 years did not all turn out that way. Life was not a cake walk in the romance department. And consisted a lot of impatiently waiting for my other half to complete me.

After a rough break up, with a boy I wasn’t even dating, I had reached my tether with romance. Fed up with gauging my happiness through others. The male species specifically. It was the summer of 2013. I was out running errands and stopped at Panera Bread for lunch. I debated for several minutes in my car about whether or not to order my food to go or eat solo. I imagined all the glances and judgement my solo escaped would warrant. Until the irony of my inner debate while sitting in my car trumped any potential dining embarrassment.

I swallowed my pride, lifted my chin up and walked through the doors, determined to dine alone without fear or shame. After ordering, I selected a window-side table. Not too centrally located, but not ducked off in a corner either. As I awaited my lunch, I couldn’t help but notice a high-school aged couple that settled into a booth slightly to the left of my forward gaze. And as the girl went to slide into the booth, a shimmer on her finger caught my eye. Her hand slid across the top length of the booth as she scooted inwards. All the while my eyes fixed on the ring that bejeweled her finger.

Mug (1 of 1)

Being a James Avery fanatic, I could spot their pieces anywhere. This particular piece being no different. I had been ogling over this ring for some time. It was a key and heart intertwined together, signifying in my mind that the giver of the ring symbolically held the heart of the receiver. A concept that existed only in my day dreams. But one that frequented quite often.

An instant twinge of jealousy and disappointment constricted around my heart. This young girl was living my dream while I ate alone with absolutely no boyfriend or prospects on the horizon.

When would a boy buy me that ring?

Would I ever have what she had?

What was wrong with me?

Almost as soon as the thoughts came tumbling out of my brain, an arrow pierced my heart. And my common sense kicked me in the rear. You do not need someone else to buy you that ring, Sarah. In fact, you are completely capable of purchasing that ring yourself.

The server interrupted my train of thought as she brought my food to the table. I thanked her and smiled as I stared out the window. My eyes lost focus as I overlooked the parking lot and embraced the sunshine. Even in my state of what felt like hopelessness, the sun was still shining. I was only 21, with no clue how my life would play out. But I did possess a newly discovered revelation. My heart was not a commodity to be out in the open. My heart, precious and sacred, deserved safe guarding. It was not an item to be handed away so freely. All the energy I misplaced in holding my heart in the palm of my hands and hoping someone would find it worthy enough to pick up. When all along, it had always been worthy. And it was already in someone’s hands: mine.

Enough! I shouted in my head. From now on, I was holding the key to my own heart.

There was a James Avery store not too far from Panera, and I was going to drive straight there and buy that ring for myself. I was already worthy of that ring, and I didn’t need to wait on a man to give it to me.

Key (1 of 1)

Author’s Note: While this miniscule moment was perspective altering for me, it required and still requires quite a bit of ground work on my end. The ring wields no actual importance, but what it represents does. And much like a tattoo, serves as a visual reminder to recognize and embrace my own worth. To guard my heart and stop believing that I needed another person to complete me or feel valued.

If you’re at all familiar with my personal love story, you’ll note that while I recaptured my own heart in the summer of 2013, it was about a year later that my relationship with Kendrae began to bloom. Which leads me to point out two important items. The first being that I had to appreciate myself and nurture my inner dialogue before I could ever be ready to healthily add in another person. One of the reasons Kendrae and I were able to make our relationship work was because we understood the importance of vetting a potential partner before fully letting our guards down. We had both suffered heart-break in the past and learned to respect our own hearts in new light. 

Which brings me to my second point. Because I hadn’t practiced treasuring my own heart for very long before delving into a relationship, my learning curve continued. I was so wrapped up in the idea of being someone’s girlfriend, that I forgot to water myself. I submerged head first into this wonderful new relationship, but lost myself along the way. Consumed with tending to Kendrae and nourishing our relationship, that I neglected myself. I wanted to spend all my spare time soaking up Kendrae. So enraptured by him that I just handed him my heart after a few weeks. A gesture that Kendrae was not ready for, and quite frankly neither was my heart.

Just because I met this new person who I believed was better than any Prince Charming, did not mean that he deserved access to my heart so soon. And with time, and a lot of patience I did place my heart in Kendrae’s strong yet gentle hands. But by reclaiming the key to my own heart, I encouraged myself to be more careful with whom I allowed it to be held. So I want to encourage you to be cautious in matters of your heart. Treasure it and be selective of whom and what can gain access. You are a rarity and should treat yourself as such.

xxx 

Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

 

No. 39 – It’s Our Anniversary

No. 39 – It’s Our Anniversary

It’s been one entire year to the day since I hit publish on my first post on relentless Sarah. So, what have I learned in the past year of blogging?

Anni Still (1 of 1)

Show up and keep showing up. People can’t support and engage with an absent account.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it NEVER will. Post it anyway. The imperfect words, the flaw-full picture. Post it and move on. Don’t stress over what could have been better. Critique kindlyand apply next time. No one wants a robot. They want a real person.

Be vulnerable. It sucks. It’s hard. It’s scary. But it’s so important. Letting your guard down lets others in. While also opening up you to others as well. A fully guarded heart helps no one, not even itself.

You aren’t suffering alone. Even if you believe your situation is completely unique to you, it’s not. Someone else has or is currently dealing with something similar. Don’t hide out. Strength lies in numbers. It doesn’t come from muscling through, it comes from breaking down and building anew.

Seq1

Let yourself heal on your own terms. Don’t force it or rush it or fake it. It will progress naturally as long as you work to give yourself the time, space and mindset.

Be gentle. Gentle with others but especially with yourself. You can be your own harshest critic, and stand in your own way. Set realistic expectations. And when you fall short, because you will, treat yourself with grace.

While your pain may not be unique, your voice is. Don’t ever undervalue that. What you say, think and feel matters. Even if no one else ever hears it, your heart needs to say it. And that is plenty reason enough to speak up.

Seq2

Pain has a purpose, but so does joy. Don’t believe the lie that only out of pain can you produce. Pain is not the only catalyst. You don’t have to marinate in your suffering.

Be creative. Step outside of your own box of comfort that you created and placed yourself in. Don’t take yourself too seriously. This should be fun and creative, not a chore or a stressor.

Be open to change. You cannot grow otherwise. Yes, it can be scary, but so can a stagnant life. I’d much rather be open to new opportunities and try. Even if I fail, then to settle for complacency and mediocrity.

Seq3

Just start. The process is worth the effort. I didn’t begin this journey with an end in mind. I just started. My only plan was to post once a week. That’s it; I could figure out the rest along the way. I didn’t have some looming pie in the sky I was reaching toward. I was more concerned with the act than the result. And that’s okay. In certain situations focusing on the craft rather than the product can lead to possibilities we would have never dreamed of.

You can’t plan everything. As a natural-born planner, the unknown stresses me out. And while having an outline can be helpful, it can also stifle the creative process. Many times I had an idea for a post, spent hours trying to stick to the script, only to scrap it and write about something completely unplanned. And every time, I surprise myself. In the best possible way.

I spend lots of time, energy and finances on my blog. And up to date have yet to make a cent. Close up, it sounds like I have an expensive hobby. And if I only focused on a product like money as a gauge of success, I would be running a failing operation. But, because I measure success based upon outreach, internal personal growth, creativity and discipline, I’ve already earned far more than I ever thought possible.

Anni Still (1 of 1)-3

Reflecting back over the version of Sarah before the blog and the version of me today, the difference is remarkable. The lessons I learned from my blog are just as applicable in life. You can’t always control where you’re planted, but you can blossom just the same. Through the unfertile soil, droughts, storms and lack of affection and resources, you can still bloom. A flower in a garden surrounded by other flowers is indisputably beautiful. But a flower that blooms despite a rocky terrain is breath-taking.

Just like the confetti in my photographs, I have hand selected beautiful words and breathed them out into the universe. Unsure if anyone would catch even a tiny sparkle. And each week I am overwhelmed by the reception of my words and experiences. But what I didn’t expect was for so many of you to shower me right back.

Reaching this year milestone wells my spirit with gratitude. I only hope to continue this journey and see where my confetti lands. So from the depths of my soul, thank you for allowing me this great privilege and for receiving me and my words with utmost kindness.

Cheers to many more years of growth and encouragement together!

Seq4

xoxo

Sarah

No. 36 – Redeeming Love

No. 36 – Redeeming Love

Here I was, a 22-year-old with a free afternoon. A moment of free time was few in far between in my hectic schedule. How should I spend it, I pondered? Being so busy and often weighted down with stress, I wanted to relax and relish my alone time. A recent priority that I needed work on. So I dug out an old book. A favorite that I have read every year since I was in middle school: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. The title, a clear insight into the overarching message of the book. A love that is powerful beyond imagination and reason. A love that I desperately needed reassurance of. 

The sun was out, but the winter chill was still in the air, so reading outside was not an option. Turning my head from the window, I stared down my living room couch. You. It has to be you. I know we haven’t been much acquainted due to your extreme discomfort, but today, we are going to be friends. I had saved for three months to be able to afford you, and I was not going to let my hard-earned money be wasted. Not only a discomfort, but an eyesore at that. 

First, I was going to set the mood. So I pulled open the blinds, and let the sunlight cascade into the large room. Lighting the space on the couch perfectly. Ahhh…I sighed in satisfaction. That was all we needed, you and I, the right ambiance. We had just gotten off on the wrong foot, that’s all. This was all a big misunderstanding. With the sunlight illuminating your bold features, you were quite beguiling in your own way. Beckoning me to sit down and embrace the comfort you could offer. 

Gently easing myself into your firm pillows, I leaned back hopeful of your back support. I cracked open the pages of my book and delved in. Ah yes, this was hitting the spot. You must be romanced. You’re not the average couch, available to all. You’re unique, refined…ouch! 

I thought we agreed to be friends. If not friends, at least friendly. 

Okay, fine. I just need to rearrange myself. Should’ve known better than to find the perfect spot on the first try. 

Twist. 

Turn. 

Back to my book. No. Somehow, I was still being pinched or prodded no matter how I positioned myself on this behemoth of a couch. All this room, and there wasn’t one area of comfort that could be found.  

A light bulb. One last idea that might solve our couch sitting woes. I pressed my back up against the flimsy arm of the brown faux-suede coach. If you could even be called a couch. More like a pain inflictor.  

But after about 10 minutes of rereading the same paragraph and not having the slightest of inclinations what I had just read, contorting my body in every possible position and finding no comfortable one, I conceded to the throne of discomfort. 

You win. I scowled at the ugly, bulking thing. I could have just as easily lain across the top of my bed and read in comfort. But it was the principle of the matter. I was paying well over my budget to live in this apartment, and didn’t use the largest room in the place! Aptly named the living room, because it was intended to be the room in which its residents would spend the majority of their time. But at the moment, it was the room I occupied the least. 

Maybe if I sat on the floor, and merely leaned up against the couch, I would find the solace I craved. Baby steps. We could work this out, together, slowly. I planted my butt on the hardwood, and my back on the couch, resting my arms on my muscled legs. My nerves settled and my mind absorbed into the pages of the book. 

Ding! The text message notification sounded on my phone charging in the other room. Breaking my eyes from the sacred pages. I leaned over on my right side, straining to peek inside my open bedroom. As if I would be able to see whom the text was from. Alright, after I finish this chapter, I’ll go check my phone. 

After quickly finishing the chapter, I disconnected my phone from it’s place on the charger. The name illuminated on my screen caught me off guard. Aunt. I hadn’t heard a syllable from her since my extended time in Ohio over the summer. What could she want after all this time? 

After not speaking or communicating with someone for 9 months, igniting conversation can be a rigorous subject, especially when things weren’t left on the best terms. It’s difficult for me to decipher what the motive is for the sudden conversation. Small talk is made while the uneasy feeling doesn’t fade from my mind: what do you really want to know? Do you sincerely care how I’m doing, or is the small talk just a rouse for information that I intentionally keep private? 

After a few brief and forced text messages, just as I anticipated, you asked the question: are you & Kendrae still together? The question was sandwiched between fluff so that it didn’t appear so black and white, but I knew better. At the heart of the question, I’m left with the feeling of conditionality that I’ve been plagued with when dealing with my family.

If Kendrae and I are still together then another year of silence lay before me, but maybe, if I had been cheated on, abused, or grown tired of like my family believed would happen, then they would be there to comfort their broken little girl. Contrary to their statements of hatefulness, none of their predictions came to fruition. I was still with Kendrae and was certainly not ashamed of it, although, I was hesitant to disclose that information. If there was one thing I knew in my heart, it was that I wanted no part of a conditional love. 

The message still sits in my inbox without a response. Even though I opted to take the high road and not stoop down to their level, I couldn’t shake the text. 

Why after all this time did my family want to know if Kendrae and I were still together? Then I flashed back to a conversation my mother had with me right after the initial explosion. She had spoken on the phone with her brother, who lived in Ohio. He was not new to the situation, and in fact was well up to speed. 

My mother asked my uncle, “Would you continue a relationship with a girl if you knew her family was very against it?” Clearly, fishing for support on the decision to ostracize me from the world and control their adult daughter’s decisions. 

To which my mother told me my uncle responded, absolutely not. If he knew her family was against the relationship than the relationship would be over. Because family is too important. 

And then to further cement her stance, I was told that they both agreed “a good guy wouldn’t pursue a relationship with a girl if he knows her family doesn’t approve of it.” 

Was I supposed to agree with them? Thank them for helping me see the light? 

I sat on the couch across the room from my mother, surprised yet somehow not at her constant attempts at manipulation. The smugness in her face felt as real in my memory as it did in the moment. Most of her remarks didn’t warrant my honest response. And this time was no different. My eyes averted out the window to my left, losing focus in the white, tall grass gently billowing in the warm summer breeze. 

I flashed back to the recent text message and the feeling of the cool hardwood floor beneath my legs. How could she? I always felt that my Aunt was on my side. She made me feel comfortable to speak more candidly and open with her. And now she was being used as the bait. The feeler sent out to see if I’d bite. I’d fallen for this cheap trick before. I know enough to realize that not a drop of goodness would come out of a response. 

I felt betrayed. I was suspicious of the ulterior motive lurking beneath this surface level conversation. And I was disappointed to be right, but not shocked. Family, estranged or not was an ocean that even the most skillful sailor could have difficulty navigating. And I had a sinking feeling that the navigation wasn’t going to get any easier. 

Author’s Note: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou 

Believe it or not, the golden colored text in this post is my actual reaction to this text message conversation five years ago. 

I’m not sure that I thought I would be writing for others to read, but writing has always been my outlet. I love capturing little snippets in the moment. Not necessarily anything major, but something impactful for me. Sometimes I record voice memos on my phone, so that I can write them down later when I have time. Sometimes I scribble out a few thoughts on a scrap of paper. And most often, I’ll type out a note on my phone. Oftentimes they are unfinished thoughts, but enough to cement my emotions and reactions. 

I have hundreds of them. Even just little tidbits like these, because I want to remember how I am feeling, what I was thinking. And still to this day, I can read those little notes to myself and actually flash back to that exact moment in time. It’s even stronger than looking at old photos, because it’s a mental and emotional snapshot. Those exact same emotions surge to the surface and I feel exactly what I felt back then. While not all of the feelings are pleasant ones, it truly has been a gift to be able to revisit past pain and heartaches. Because the eyes looking back on that memory see it through a whole new perspective. I wish I could tell that Sarah what I know now. That all her pain, confusion and struggles are helping to shape her into a strong, fiercely independent woman. 

I truly believe that all pain serves a purpose. Sometimes to invoke change. Other times to solidify a choice. Refinement. New perspective. Clarifying a poor decision. Growth. And sometimes we may not know the reason for the pain we endure. But I choose to live my life knowing that in everything there is a purpose. A purpose much greater than me. And right now, when I look back, I can see a bigger picture. A pathway that has led me to more joy and contentment that I ever imagined in my state of hurt. 

There is a love redeeming beyond anything imaginable. I know because I’ve experienced it. Be encouraged friends. 

No. 35 – Self Worth

No. 35 – Self Worth

Half a year had come and gone and it hadn’t felt as if I had time to blink. My days were filled with scrambling, and I wasn’t getting much rest. When I wasn’t teaching, I was working in the mall at a little clothing boutique called Francesca’s. Kendrae and I felt like ships passing by but never meeting. My work schedule was a muddled mess, and his hours consisted of early mornings and late nights. We would squeeze in time together as much as possible, but it didn’t feel like much. A robot on auto-pilot, I was set on survival mode. 

I was constantly on edge. Fearful of what might be lurking just around the corner. Always glancing behind me, slowly turning corners, eerie of any sound I heard while in my apartment. I had been there nearly six months and the place still didn’t feel like home. Perhaps because I had no means to make it feel that way. It felt like a echoic warehouse building. I had finally managed to scrape up enough money to buy a thrice hand-me-down couch, but it was so lived in before I got it, that the springs were out of place, and inflicted actual physical pain to any who dared to sit on it. I never got a table, or any chairs for that matter. The only place I could really sit down was the floor or the bed, Jessica had so graciously loaned me. 

Truth be told, I was so busy, I didn’t have much time to want for anything. Besides more time with Kendrae. If I would’ve invested in a couch, I wouldn’t have any free time to sit on it. Better to just keep the apartment empty so that it was easier to come and go so often. 

Over time the place felt familiar, but not like home. Maybe it wasn’t even the lack of furniture that had any influence over my current nomadic feeling; it was deeper than that. I never felt safe. My irrational fear that my parents would come banging on the door, demanding to take me back home was a reoccurring nightmare, waking and sleeping. Every time I pulled into the parking lot, I expected to see one of their ten cars waiting on me. No matter how many times I tried to rationally talk my fear down, it was no good. In fact, the longer it had been, the surer I was that they were going to pop up. Kendrae shared my fear and didn’t feel comfortable visiting my apartment. Another reason it was hard to see each other.

The only time I had felt safe in the last six months was when he was around. And when he wasn’t, which was most of the time, I battled a constant state of unease. Looking over my shoulder. Inspecting every shadow. Sitting in silence so I could hear even the slightest breeze. Never truly resting. Mind constantly reeling. 

But when Kendrae was around, the fears dissipated. My two extremities wreaked havoc with my emotions. I found myself clinging to him more tightly, and coming to tears when we would part. A complete and total wreck, sobbing uncontrollably without constraint or insight as to why. Even when Kendrae was near, he couldn’t be more than six inches away from me or I felt susceptible to danger. I knew my behavior and emotions were erratic, but it was as if I had no physical or emotional filter. 

And one January night, it all came crashing down on me. I had the night off from the boutique, and Kendrae was getting off of work around 6. Naturally I was excited, because this meant we could spend some actual time together. I would make us both dinner, and we could watch something on Netflix and just relax. Until I got a text message that knocked the wind straight out of me.

“Just getting off work. I’m tired, so I’m just going to go home.” It was a basic message, but sent me into a frenzied panic. A dozen questions flew through my head so intensely that I felt dizzy. And before I could even think of a response, I found myself calling him. 

“Hello.” 

“Hey, I just got your text. You’re not going to come over?” I said as my voice cracked. 

“Yeah, I’m tired and need some time to myself.”

“…Um…okay…” I said choking back tears. He’s tired of you. He doesn’t want to spend what little free time he has with you. You’re losing him, Sarah.

Trying not to sound as panicked as I felt, “I was going to cook something for us and then I thought we could watch a movie or something.” 

“Maybe another time. I just need some time. That’s all.” 

“Oh…okay,” was all I could muster. 

“Well I’m almost home now, so I’ll text you later okay?” 

“…alright. Bye.” 

Cue the waterworks. I crumbled onto my bed and felt my world collapsing. 

How could he not want to spend time together? 

We lived 20 minutes apart, and he didn’t want to see me? 

What was wrong with me? 

What did I do? 

What wasn’t I doing? 

My thoughts whizzed around me in a vicious circle and after completely eviscerating myself, I was left crushed and wounded. 

I attempted to type a message to Kendrae about 20 different times, but the words avoided me. Despair evolved into latent hostility. Fine. If he didn’t want to spend his precious spare time with me, then I didn’t need to spend my effort on him either. 

My faux feelings of anger quickly relented back to despair as my self-loathing ritual began again. After about two hours of wondering how I could possibly pick up the pieces of my shattered life, I received a text message from Kendrae. My heart jumped into the air and did a front flip. He loved me, he really loved me and was apologizing and was on his way over here. 

Quickly grabbing my phone, I typed in my password to view my digital love note. Or not…It was a picture of a yogurt parfait Kendrae had made with the caption: dinner. 

What? So he was just going to pretend that this massive wedge between us wasn’t there? That he hadn’t just dropped a massive bomb shell on my heart? My whole world hadn’t just been shattered? 

I played it cool. “Looks good.” I responded, trying to keep it brief as I tossed my phone across the bed. Letting out a mudled huff of frustration, I reclined back onto the mattress and rested my head on the edge, legs dangling off the opposite side. Gaze fixated on the static ceiling fan. Gravity tugged at my hair which slowly cascaded down the edge of the mattress towards the carpeted floor. I let out another deep breath as I felt my body sinking. And as my eyes focused, so intently on the fan blades, my mind explored. 

Where had I gone so wrong? What could I have done better, to make him want to stick around? Was I too vocal about my feelings for him? Too needy? Could I convince him to want to be with me? Or was his mind already made up? What would I do without him?

What would I do without him? 

The connotation of that question reverberated through my mind. What would I do without him? Really…Sarah? Had my life so completely revolved around one person that I was questioning how I could get by without him? Chills ran down my spine as realization set in. Somewhere between wondering if I would ever get out from underneath my parents and now, I had become co-dependent on Kendrae. So much so, that the thought of spending an evening apart sent me spiraling down the unworthiness worm hole. I felt sick to my stomach.

My eyes widened, so laser-like focused on the fan blades that they became blurry in comparison to my thoughts. And as I took a step back to see my own reflection, the picture became very clear. Losing my relationship with my family created a large void in my life. In my frenzy and vulnerability, I had cast Kendrae as the leading role of my life. Not only that, but signed him up for just about every supporting role too. He was now acting as my family, my closest companion, my security, confidant and sounding board. And that wasn’t fair. Nor right. How could one person live up to all those responsibilities and expectations? I know I wouldn’t want to occupy the end all, be all in his life. In fact, that was quite terrifying. 

And in the process of filling my life up with Kendrae, I was missing a part of Sarah. I had lost myself in our relationship because I so desperately wanted to be loved and accepted. Identifying myself as his partner, rather than a whole person. When was the last time I had just spent an evening with myself? Not because I had to, or because other plans fell through, but because I wanted to. My mind was blank. The last time I truly felt like Sarah had to be before everything blew up over the summer. But really before that I was so consumed with soaking in every minute with my friends, teammates, and new boyfriend before graduation that I wasn’t much of a factor then either. Actually, there had always been an excuse for why I was always my own last priority. I spent my entire life consumed with others, allowing everyone and everything to rank higher on my priority list. 

Serve others. Value others first. Think of yourself less. Put your wants and needs last. All notions that had been fed to me since I could remember. Notions, that in isolation serve a fine purpose, but together can also encourage and perpetuate the undervaluing of oneself. I had been trained that the only capacity in which I mattered was in my role to someone else. An ideology I had never given much thought, just robotically followed. 

Spending time solely exploring my thoughts, dreams and emotions seemed dirty and vainglorious. 

Was it possible to foster and value a relationship with yourself? If I gave myself the time, love and energy that I so desperately craved, would I lose Kendrae in the process? Or worse, had I lost him already? 

Author’s Note: We find ourselves at the start of a fresh, new year. A pausing point, inciting self-reflection. An act that I once undervalued and flat out misunderstood. What I once mistook for self-centeredness, I now recognize as a necessity. Constantly bombarded with blatant and subliminal messages, it is easy to lose yourself in the clutter. We intake so much, that if you don’t spend time sifting through it, you may not realize all the garbage that stacks up. Spending time alone was an occurrence I ardently avoided. Turning on music to drone out my thoughts, fearful of what I might hear. Watching mindless television to spare myself a rendezvous with my own mind. Believing that silence lead to self-absorption. A straight path leading only to loneliness and emptiness. 

And now, I crave the stillness. Yearning for even just a few brief moments of absolute tranquility. No distractions, no sound, just Sarah. A space where I’m encouraged to pray, dream, cry, think, explore and reflect. Where holistic clarity joins me. It is this steadfast priority to always believe in my value as an individual and to continuously explore and refine that propels me to be my best self. 

I want to be the best version of Sarah for me. Which also happens to spill out into my relationships. My work. My writing. My interactions with strangers. All of which were being stifled until I learned that I am important. My time is valuable. I can choose and not choose how I’d like to spend it. And if I’d like to spend quality time with myself, it is not vanity. It’s sanity. 

Often times, it is much easier to pour ourselves into others than it is to seek out what fills our own cups. But the danger in this lies with running on fumes. Starving ourselves and giving everyone less than our best. To paraphrase a fictional radio psychiatrist, “Like this camembert, I am at my most delicious when I’m not spread too thin.”