Loyal Friends

The other night, I found myself bored while watching my boyfriend play video games and decided that I would read out loud from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, a phenomenal collection. I can’t verify that my boyfriend actually listened to any of the stories, or if he could even hear them through the sounds of virtual reality machine gun fire, but I read on anyway, letting the words flow from my mouth in a very therapeutic way. Reading aloud, although maybe a little archaic, creates a whole different experience when reading a story. I’ve found that I very much like reading aloud, Hemingway’s stories especially, because it lends itself to the drama and emotion of a story in a way that doesn’t come through reading to oneself. 

I love Hemingway’s stories because most of them deal with very intense subject matter but all within 3-4 pages, if that. Probably my favorite of his stories is called “A Day’s Wait”, which I ironically forget the name of almost every time I go to read it. The story, lasting only about 2 1/2 pages, is about a boy who believes he is dying because he has a very high fever. As the boy prepares for death, his confused father explains to him that he’s fine, and at the end the boy comes to realize that he had confused celcius and farenheit and that his fever was not life threatening after all. It is probably one of the most simple premises for a story that I have ever encountered, yet so extremely profound. As a child, and even today, I suffer from pretty extreme anxiety and slight hypochondria. At the age of 5 (or maybe 6) my grandmother once told me that sugar was bad for me; for the following six months, I refused to eat anything with sugar because I was convinced it would kill me. Hemingway so perfectly captures the mind of a child in this story, and every time I read it I feel that connection with my own strange, childish mind. 

 

As I read on to a few of my other favorites, I began to think about my life. I longed for the days when I read and thought about stories every single day while I was studying English in college, and I felt like my life no longer made sense without that. I thought about how these stories, so profound and life changing, were only a few pages, and how easily I could write my own stories (albeit never with the mastery of Mr. Hemingway). In sharing this little anecdote I am trying to emphasize the meaning that reading brings to life.  The way I feel after I read a good story or a good book, is a feeling that I don’t believe will ever be duplicated in any other walk of life. It’s an intensely personal, emotional and reflective process that is experienced differently by every person. When people ask me what I plan to do with an English major or when they poke fun at the not-so-bright financial future of English majors, I don’t think they have ever felt that feeling that comes through reading. Some people may never feel it, may never feel devastated, elated, angry, or whatever emotion that a book or story brings, and in all honesty, I feel bad for them, because books have changed my life. 

English majors may be known for having their head in the clouds, but I don’t see the problem with that. My life has been enriched in so many ways from my relationship with books. And yes, it is a relationship. Within the pages of a book you may find your friends, your lovers, and your enemies all at once. Think about the relationship people have with Jesus Christ and the Bible, no one ever found that one strange, did they? 

All I have to say is, I think I was meant to encourage people to form this relationship with books. I currently work with elementary aged kids and am constantly trying to teach this connection and relationship that I found has shaped and influenced my life so greatly. And I leave you with a quote from Mr. Hemingway himself, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

“Life, ideally,…

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“Life, ideally, I think, should be like the Minuet or the Virginia Reel or the Turkey Trot, something easily mastered in a dancing school”, Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick.

This quote has stuck in my mind since I first ready Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick a few years back, maybe because it’s true, or maybe because I wish it were true. Why, I ask myself, isn’t life just that easy, why is it not something that can be mastered quickly with practice? Why does it keep throwing curves that I don’t know how to hit, that I don’t understand. Lately, I don’t even understand myself.

I haven’t been myself this weekend. I haven’t been myself for a while. I am a generally outgoing person who goes through phases of introversion and extreme independence in which I desire a lot of alone time. I brushed my feelings off as being one of these phases; with the onset of many life and schedule changes, I thought nothing of it. For the past two days, I can’t seem to leave bed. I can’t leave the house, let alone my room. I live with my boyfriend and a roommate, the roommate often having people over as he is an extremely outgoing person with a very loud personality, and I find myself very withdrawn from him especially. Currently there are two people over to watch football, a sport that I hate but have been able to tolerate many times in my life. I can’t leave my room. I feel paralyzed and stuck, wanting to be one place, but not finding the strength to get myself there. I fear that my boyfriend doesn’t understand what I’m feeling or going through, but then again, neither do I.

We found out a little over a week ago that my boyfriend’s mom has cancer. The day he came home crying and told me was the same day that my grandmother finished her last treatment of chemotherapy after fighting pancreatic cancer. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in God, but whatever thing is taking credit for what happens in this life, I was angry with it. How could this be happening? I cried as I held him when he told me. I’ve never seen him cry before. I felt devastated after just experiencing four months of my grandma’s illness and recovery, and now it’s back to square one. How can this kind of thing keep happening to people that don’t deserve it? 

I don’t know where to go from here. I’ve considered that maybe I’m empathetic, a person that can literally feel the emotions of others. I’ve considered everything. I’ve never experienced any kind of social anxiety in my life before, but the thought of walking down the hall into a room full of people is terrifying me at this moment. At the same time, I can’t stand another minute of being alone with my thoughts. 

What are life and my mind trying to tell me right now? I believe in certain cosmic forces and vibes and signs from the world, I just don’t know how to read or understand these feelings I’m having. I need to find the answers soon.

Laundry Room Ramblings

 

Sometimes, it takes the strangest places to find a little peace and quiet. After spending a day experiencing the after effects of my overindulgences from last night (to put it simply, I was hungover), the three people in my apartment right now playing drinking games seem like they’re having a lot of fun, but I’m just not on board that train tonight. It’s 11:01 pm and after attempting sleep, only to be thwarted by the shouts and laughter from the drinkers sitting around my kitchen table, I had to find an escape. Although it may not be my first choice of activity at this time on a Saturday night, I’m finding solace in the soothing sounds of the washing machine as I sit in the basement laundry room of my apartment building. My clothes definitely needed to be washed, but I did not foresee myself sitting down here for the entirety of my wash cycle to escape the place that I should feel most comfortable and at home.

            This apartment experience has been interesting, to say the least. We have been living here for a few weeks now, and while I love living with my boyfriend…I think I hate it at the same time. I have always been an equally introverted and extroverted person, at times going through phases of each. Currently, after starting  a new job that is very mentally demanding, I’m finding myself coming home every day and going straight to bed to watch my guilty pleasure shows on Netflix. My boyfriend doesn’t understand and is always telling me, “It’s daytime, you shouldn’t be in bed right now!” One would think that he, being wholly introverted, would understand my desire to close myself off after spending a day in the presence of many people, most of them being small children. I always felt that I would be the “clingy” one, wanting to spend every second with the person that I love and have chosen to share this space with, however, I’m finding it to be somewhat the opposite. He’s constantly trying to get me out of bed and into the living room where he can usually be found playing the new Grand Theft Auto game for hours on end, and despite my many attempts to explain to him that watching him play video games isn’t fun for me, he doesn’t understand.

            So, I wouldn’t say we’ve really hit a bump in the road in terms of our relationship, but it’s definitely been a challenge when it comes to figuring out our living styles and what we enjoy doing while we’re at home. With that said, I’ll bring you back to the present, which is me curled up in a comfy chair in my apartment building’s laundry room writing this entry. My boyfriend may be concerned that I haven’t come back yet, because I think that most people don’t usually prefer to sit and wait for their entire wash cycle to finish, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me kicking back and enjoying the quiet. I know I’ve said it before, but balance is key. The reason I probably felt like I was going crazy was because I haven’t had enough quiet time to myself to really sit and think about what it is that I need to make myself feel whole, content and balanced. I think that doing laundry right now has been probably one of the better choices I’ve made this week, because I’ll admit, there have been minor conflicts between me and him over the most trivial things. We poke fun at each other often and sometimes make the joke “I’m sick of ya!” But really, I think we might be sick of each other. I knew the best thing for me was to just walk away for a little bit, separate myself from the noise and the people and just sit down with my thoughts. I wanted to cry, I wanted to yell out of frustration, but I chose to take a different path. I think a lot of times being in relationships might feel like we need to do everything for the other person, but the best way, in my opinion, to have a healthy relationship, is to take care of yourself first. If I’m not feeling 100% myself, that’s something that I think is going to come through in my relationship, and the past few days it has. I have been in relationships where my mental health, being something I’ve struggled with since my teen and maybe even pre-teen years, was not at a healthy and balanced level, thus leading to the collapse of those relationships entirely.

            What I beg of anyone that is reading this is, take a step back and evaluate yourself and the situation you are in. Give yourself the time you need to regroup and get yourself back to that 100% if you’re feeling like whatever is going on in your life has got you down. Find the balance within yourself, within your relationships and within whatever other important things you’re experiencing at the moment. Find peace where you may (even if it is a basement laundry room in the middle of the night) and just relax.

On Friendship

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“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am struggling with many of my friendships right now. It has been nearly a week since I’ve moved into my new apartment in Portland, Oregon and three days since starting my new job as an ELL Staff Assistant in Vancouver, Washington. While I’m finding that I love the regimented schedule that I’ve been following for the past few days, I am having trouble finding balance between work, personal time and friendships and relationships. 

Balance is the key.

While I have been pretty much shutting out any chance of a social life, I’ve allowed myself to feel sour about certain friends not reaching out to me to ask me about my new job and how the new apartment is working out. I’ve found that I’m very focused lately, not really concerned about the outside world as much as I am about things inside my own sphere; ways to learn and become better at my job, unpacking and setting up the apartment, focusing on my relationship with my boyfriend, who I now live with. It is after I read the quote by Emerson, “The only way to have a friend is to be one”, that I realize my mistakes. 

Friendship is a two way street. It’s not always right to expect your friends to come to you when they may be just as busy and preoccupied with their own lives. At times I find myself thinking, “They’re ignoring me. They’re not talking to me for whatever reason”, when in reality, they could be thinking that I’m doing the exact same thing to them. 

So, while I’m worried about balancing all these things, it seems I’ve forgotten how to maintain this balance by actually creating it through my actions. Even though I’m extremely focused on my own endeavors right now, I can’t just expect everyone to know and understand what I’m expecting of them without taking the first step to let them know. I’ve realized the past few days that maybe am the one at fault, maybe I’m the one being a bad friend. I’m sure many of my friends would love to be a part of my positive changes and triumphs this past week, but right now I’m leaving the door to my self closed, when instead I should be opening it. 

You always hear the old saying, treat others as you would like to be treated, and I think that very aptly applies to maintaining friendships that are meaningful to you. You can’t expect to have friends that treat you a certain way unless you treat them the same way in return. When you feel isolated and let down, reach out to someone to let them know that you care what they have to say and that they are important to you, or else you can’t expect to make any changes. 

“A time to break down, and a time to build up…” (Ecclesiastes 3:3)

“What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises…All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:3-9 NRSV

“What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” Epigraph to Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”

Above are two passages from the Old Testament’s book of Ecclesiastes, one being a translation from my own copy of the Harper Collins Study Bible New Revised Standard Version while the second is the epigraph to Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, Bible version unknown.

I don’t believe in God, but I believe in literature. My inquiries into the Bible have been solely from a literary standpoint, rather than a religious one. The book of Ecclesiastes has been, and will most likely remain, one of my favorite pieces of literature to date for not only its approach to wisdom and, as my version states in the introduction, “the limits and contradictions of life”. While I’ve found that much of the Old (and New, although I am less familiar with it) Testament takes on a more fantastical and other-wordly approach to learning wisdom and living life, the book of Ecclesiastes, to me, is much more human and finite. The book acknowledges the equality of man and animal as creatures of the earth, it understands that as all things live, they die, no matter what their lot in life, and in one of my favorite passages from the book, reminds us that everything happens in its own time (Ecclesiastes 3). The above quotes stress the cyclical nature of life, which is something that I believe, if remembered, can provide one with enough solace to make it through hard times.

There are times for us all (I say this trusting that I am correct) when we feel like no one will ever understand our pain, our heartache, what we’re going through; however, I assure you this is not the case. As long as there are variables, things changing and rearranging, there always has to be a constant to accompany it. Events may break us, or lift us up to heights previously unvisited, but amongst all the turbulence, there is always one thing – life. We are still alive through all of it. If we think we have nothing in common with the generation before us, or the person living in a country across the globe, we must remember that, in the grand scheme of things, we are all just striving for life.

At 23 years old, about to move in with a boyfriend for the first time, starting my first full time job this coming Monday, I am finally feeling content, free. Free from what? From the strains of post-graduation unemployment, free from feeling completely lost. I remember, then, that there were others before me. One generation passeth, one generation cometh. As hard as many of those days were, as I grew weary of the rejections and day after day of the same dead end retail job, the sun would set, but it would always rise again, a new day in its wake.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t give up. We all experience loss at some point in our lives, whether it be the loss of a meaningful object, an important person, or even the temporary loss of our selves; but, life is still life and it always will be. Remember that even as the sun sets, bringing on the darkness, it will always rise again.

An overflow of words and phrases.

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“My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it’s because my head is too full of words…I always wake with sentences pouring into my head.” – Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a long time now. To be honest, all I’ve wanted is to start writing more in general. I stumbled upon this quote from Barbara Kingsolver, a favorite author of mine, while reading an interview she did for The Daily Beast and felt like I could really identify with it. I will go through a whole day of experiences and later on as I’m driving home from school or work, or getting ready for bed, I begin to formulate essays and stories in my head that never come to fruition anywhere else but in my thoughts.

So, like Kingsolver, I, too, wake up in the morning, sometimes before the sunrise, too full of words. I no longer feel that it is acceptable for these words and sentences to escape into the nothingness, so I will write them down instead.

The title of this blog comes from the pseudonym of Emily Brontë. In the mid 19th Century, the three Brontë sisters wrote under the pen names of Currer Bell (Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre), Ellis Bell (our heroine and author of Wuthering Heights) and Acton Bell (Anne Brontë) in order to escape the scrutiny that was placed on female writers of the time. 

I am inspired by Ellis Bell. She was a woman that broke the rules to do what she loved and wrote one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking novels that I’ve ever read. Wuthering Heights was received with mixed reviews when it first came to press because of its depictions of cruelty; just imagine if readers had only known that not only did it contain extremely controversial subject matter, but that it was written by a woman as well. Would things have been different if Emily Brontë would have published the novel under her own name? What punishments might she have faced without Ellis Bell?

In this moment, I am Ellis Bell. Bold. Creative. Undaunted.