Mentally Preparing for Families During the Holidays

Thanksgiving’s this week, and the rest of the family-centric end-of-year holidays are approaching too. If you’re reading this, chances are you have some family issues. Maybe they put you down. Maybe you never feel good enough for them. Maybe they just piss you off. Whatever the case, holidays can be extremely stressful and take a heavy toll on our mental health.

I want to remind everyone not to let the obnoxious tendencies of our families bring us down. As much as I hate the holidays, even I’ll admit they’re supposed to be good experiences. But I know sometimes there’s no helping it, and they’re not going to go well, no matter how much positive thinking you’re going to bring. So it’s really important to remember to take care of yourself during this time of year.

You should try spending as much time around people that have a positive effect on your life as possible. I know it’s not always easy, especially the older we get, but don’t forget about all the different forms of communication we have today. There’s texting, social media, Skype, and the good old fashioned phone call. Even if you can’t see them, remember to keep in touch with the people that make you happier during this time of year.

Make extra time to do things that make you happy, too. Read more, write more, play more games, watch more movies, take more walks – do more of the stuff that stops you from focusing on the bad. If you’re going to have to deal with hurtful experiences with family, the least you can do is walk into those situations as recharged and happy as you can possibly be.

Like I mentioned in my post about unwanted house guests, there are some things you can do to take the edge off having to deal with family. I recommend checking it out if you want more details, but to add to that list, don’t be afraid to show up a little late or leave a little early. Everyone’s situation is different, but make something up. If you’re having guests over at 3:00, say you were invited to another person’s place to celebrate the holidays and you’ll be back at 4:00. Or not at all, if you can get away with that. Say you have work very early the following morning, so you should go home earlier to sleep. Pretend you’re sick. I don’t want to encourage lying, but when family’s driving you to the point of a mental breakdown, you have to play a little dirty. Do something personally fulfilling both before and after the main event so you won’t have to end the day on such a bummer note.

I wish there was some kind of universal advice I can give to make it through this, but there isn’t. I can only encourage you to take care of your mental health and make it through the holidays with as little damage as possible. Take care of yourselves, guys. And treat yourselves to a soft pretzel or cinnamon bun or something when it’s all over. ❤

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Dealing With House Guests When You Don’t Want Visitors

This weekend, my grandparents came to stay with us for four days. I love them. I really do.

But my god, how I hate having people stay over.

I’ve come to value and appreciate silence and space over the years, and whether someone’s coming to visit for a day, staying overnight, or staying for a week, these two things tend to become disrupted when you have visitors. Under normal circumstances, I might be able to handle myself a little more maturely than I did this weekend, but due to the frustration of dealing with many personal issues lately, having company over for an extended period of time wasn’t something I particularly wanted to add to my plate.

I told myself I was really going to try to be a good sport about the situation, too. When they visited last year, I was dealing with the tail end of a frustrating depression and didn’t present myself very warmly. And when most of my family went out of state to attend my cousin’s wedding a few months ago, I stayed behind, which nobody was happy with. I know I haven’t left a great impression with them, even if I am genuinely nice towards them when we talk on the phone, and I wanted this visit to go differently. I really did. I put on my A-game and was so nice welcoming them in, helping them bring in luggage, making small talk, making them tea, etc.

That lasted two hours. Max.

My grandmother is a chatty woman. A very, very chatty woman. Unfortunately, she’s the kind of person that talks a lot without ever having much to say (sorry Granny, I really do love you ❤ ). And after a couple of hours of being bombarded with conversation that, sadly, I honestly had little to nothing to contribute towards, I was exhausted. I was getting a little agitated. My mother was supposed to be home shortly after they arrived, and she was showing no sign of pulling up the driveway anytime soon. I was praying she would walk through the door at any moment to take some of the attention off me. Negative thoughts about my personal shit kept bubbling up inside my head, and I wanted to get out of the house and breathe.

And then my grandmother hit one of my sensitive spots: how’s the job hunt going? I could feel myself tense up as soon as she began the question. I knew it would be coming eventually, but I was hoping to be in a better frame of mind when it happened.

For those that don’t know, I graduated two years ago with a B.A. in literature, with a focus in creative writing. My long term goal is to get published; what comes in between then and now, I don’t know. I’ve looked into several areas of interest where I felt I wanted to be, but regardless, I still only have my part-time retail job. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I particularly like talking about, especially now when I’m honestly not sure I want to do what I thought I did anymore. I’m lost, to be honest. And it’s very frustrating to be lost and have people try to force advice on you when they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

I’ll leave it to your imagination on what happened next.

My grandmother can come off a little critical, as well. I know she doesn’t mean it; I know she doesn’t have a filter when she speaks, and she says the first thing that comes to her mind. But I criticize myself on this matter enough as it is. I really don’t need to have another person do it for me. And sure enough, this turned into an extensive, criticizing conversation. At some point, I knew I lost my ability to fake smiles and be polite. I knew I lost whatever mental energy I’d saved up to enjoy their visit. I knew this visit was going to suck. And now all I wanted was for them to leave so I could have some fucking peace and quiet and space again.

I really do love them. I really do. But I can’t handle house guests. I really can’t.

Well, good luck within bad luck, I got sick the day after they arrived and remained that way until today (still kind of sick actually, but at least now I can function). I had an excuse to stay up in my room for most of their visit, and an excuse to not be particularly outgoing. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but with the way I am right now, I needed a legitimate excuse to keep some distance.

But maybe you don’t have an excuse and need to deal with house guests. How do you deal with them when you don’t really want to? Well, even though I completely failed to do most of these, here are some things that have worked for me in the past when I’ve had stressful visits.

Don’t feel solely responsible for entertaining them. If someone’s visiting for a day, this may not apply as well. But if you have guests staying for a couple of days or a week, don’t make it your sole responsibility to spend every minute of the day trying to entertain them. You have your own life to live, and while you need to make time for your guests, you can’t stop your life to please theirs. For example, you all don’t have to go to bed at the same time. Say you’re going to bed a little early and let them watch TV or whatever. After you’re done with work, take a little time to do some grocery shopping or errand running to give yourself a little room to breathe. Try designating a specific time you’ll spend time with your guests so you don’t feel like you’re ignoring them.

Don’t take things personally. I know. I’ve got some balls to be telling you this. This, coming from the guy that recently found a hand-written note taped on his mailbox that said “Smile You Are Healthy 🙂 ❤ ” and immediately texted his friend, asking her if she thought this was a random act of kindness by some kid or the universe mocking me (yes, this is a thing that actually happened).

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She convinced me it was a random act of kindness, and now it’s taped above my desk :3

My grandmother didn’t mean to hit a nerve with me. I know that. I knew that when it happened. I just didn’t have the patience to deal with it. Be patient with your guests. Unless they’re people you talk and actively open up to on a common basis, they probably don’t know everything that’s going on with you. Your guests may be people that honestly don’t know you nearly as well as they once did, especially if a lot of time has passed between visits. People change, and sometimes others may not notice. If your guests are saying or doing something that’s starting to offend you, try to remember they’re most likely not doing it on purpose. (Unless they are. There are some genuinely rude guests that live to get a rise out of people. But you can usually tell the difference between these people and the ones that don’t mean any harm.) And if they keep doing it, try gently letting them know what they’re doing.

The visit isn’t going to last forever. Sometimes it seems like it is, but try to keep things in perspective. They’re not going to be living with you, even if they’re setting up their own station in the bathroom and you suddenly need to share counter and shower space. They are going to leave, and you’ll have your space back soon enough. Remember all those times when you found a day or week to pass by very quickly? Try thinking in those terms. The visit will be over soon, and the sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can deal with your guests a little better.

Try to include other people. I went out to dinner with my grandparents and parents on Saturday night. We invited my sister, who doesn’t live with us anymore, and her boyfriend. During previous visits, we’ve also invited my other grandmother (who is unfortunately no longer alive) and my cousins. Your guests may be visiting you, but chances are there are some other people you all mutually know and they want to see as well. Try to get them in on the visit for part of the time. It will help break up the repetitive nature of taking care of your guests and alleviate some of the unwanted attention on yourself.

Try to appreciate visits while they can still happen. Some visits will be one-time only situations, or just plain unwanted, whether or not you actually like the people that visit. But if you do like the people and you don’t get to see them often, even if you’re not up for it, try to enjoy the company while you can. I live in New Jersey. My grandparents live in Florida. We keep in touch regularly, but we don’t get many opportunities to see each other. And while they do make the drive back up here to visit their kids every year or so, the truth is my grandparents are getting up there in age. My mother has been saying “this might be their last drive up here” for years, and perhaps because they keep doing it I take for granted that they’ll always end up visiting. But realistically, I never know how many more visits they’ll make. They’re getting old; they may not have it in them to drive up and down the coast within the next few years. Even though I really haven’t enjoyed myself during the past couple of visits, I hope that they’ll come back again when I’m in a better frame of mind and can appreciate the company. You don’t want to come off like you don’t want your guests to visit when you still want to see them. You might make them feel unwanted and they may never want to visit again.

It’s not just family, either. As you’re getting older, chances are you’ll have more friends that live far away. They may need to crash at your place for a night if you want to see each other. If you make their time with you feel awkward, they may not want to make the drive to see you. It’s hard enough to keep up with friends that moved; you don’t need to make it harder.

Don’t forget about the bathroom. I’m sure different people from different ages and situations will read this, but if there’s one piece of universal advice I can give about dealing with house guests, it’s to use the bathroom! When you need a break, when you need to breathe, when you need everyone to shut up for five minutes, go to the bathroom. Keep a book or mp3 player hidden somewhere in it. Take your iPhone in and check a news feed from a social media site. Just sit on the toilet, turn the fan on if you have one, and breathe. The bathroom is, like, the one place you should be able to go and not be interrupted.

Should be. Life ain’t perfect. But take advantage of the bathroom. Trust me. It’s a lifesaver.

Hope this helps. Have a good week, and happy first day of fall! 🙂

Two Types of Silence

Silence is one of those things that can be either incredibly liberating or infinitely suffocating. Sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself that you really want things to be quiet, especially if you’re depressed. Let me explain.

So the first kind of silence is something I think everyone wants at some point. If you’re in a situation when you need as little noise as possible, silence is amazing. Need to study for a test or focus on writing an essay for school? Yup, silence rocks. You certainly don’t need the other people in your house making a lot of noise while you’re working. You don’t need kids outside screaming so distractingly loud. You don’t need to listen to the guy talking on his phone in the middle of the library.

How about if you want a nice, quiet moment with someone, or even just by yourself? You take your dog to the dog park at sunrise, hoping to start the day slowly and peacefully. You’ll watch your dog run around like a lunatic (OH BOY! NEW PLACE! SO FUN! PEE! ON! EVERYTHING!) and nurse a cup of coffee as the sun comes in. But then you get there and- GASP! Someone else. And it’s not like he’s sitting there minding his own business. He sees you coming in and he’s already on top of you, asking what kind of dog you have, how old she is, and anything else to make conversation for the sake of making conversation. And there’s nothing wrong with talking to other people at the dog park, but… you really just wanted the silence.

How about if you wanted to have an intimate conversation with someone? Say you need to talk about your depression with a close friend. Or maybe you need to tell someone that you like them. Maybe there’s just something really personal you want to talk about. You meet up for coffee or lunch or whatever, and you start this quiet conversation, when all of a sudden, you hear this really loud person enter the building. There’s plenty of space everywhere else, but they choose to sit down at the table or booth directly next to yours. And while you’re trying to have this difficult, intimate conversation with someone, they’re having a loud, obnoxious one directly behind you. Silence would be really fucking awesome right about now.

But then there’s this second kind of silence, and this one can really hurt. The effects of it are usually very strong when you’re depressed or lonely. When you go to sleep at night like this, you may end up keeping yourself awake with overthinking or even just regular thinking about your personal issues. You’ll turn the TV on, or listen to music, or even just sleep with someone just so it’ll feel like you’re not alone with your thoughts. And after a while, it’ll become a need. You need to listen to reruns of old sitcoms or be in bed with someone because the loneliness and pain that silence brings is too much to handle by yourself.

How about those awkward silences with family and friends? Particularly family and friends you don’t get along with. And you may think it’s pretty weird to be spending time with people you don’t get along with, but like it or not, it happens. One of you will keep trying to make small talk, but there are these long stretches of silence that remind you of the fact that you don’t really belong with them. Forced conversation and laughing at jokes or comments that aren’t really funny are never going to cover up the fact that there’s this giant distance between you and them.

Something changes between you and someone you’re close with. One of you starts dating. One of you moves. One of you is mad with the other. One of you just wants to stop being friends. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. I’m sure you know the feeling. This person’s out of your life, and whether it’s temporary or permanently, you notice the silence. The phone stops buzzing with calls or texts. Your Facebook timeline stops receiving pictures of things the other person thought you would like. You find yourself with free time you wish was still being spent with the other person. This silence… geez, this silence really sucks.

But what’s very confusing is when you want one type of silence and not the other. Well, okay, everyone wants the first kind of silence and no one ever ever wants the second type. But sometimes you’ll find yourself wanting silence, and when you have it, you realize you don’t really want it.

When you have all this anxiety about whatever it is you’re going through, you don’t want to hear annoying coworkers drowning you in idle banter. You don’t want to be out shopping and hear babies screaming. You don’t want to hear construction outside your window all day. You don’t want to go out, get something to eat, and listen to old people whine about anything. ANYTHING.

Because when you have enough trouble dealing with depression, dealing with anxiety, trying to convince yourself things will be okay, and overall just trying to work through stuff that you have enough trouble understanding, let alone trying to find a way to explain it to someone else… the last thing you need is to have a group of old people sit down next to you and start whining about everything. It took enough strength for you to get out of bed, enough courage to go out into the world, a world full of people that can potentially hurt you, and now you have to listen to such serious issues, like “it’s too cold in here,” “I don’t know how to get an E-mail,” and “what is Tweeter?” while you contemplate how to fix yourself when you feel broken beyond repair.

Look it up! For fuck’s sake, look all this shit up, old people! If 1st graders are learning second languages and how to use computers, surely someone that’s fought in a war, or raised a family, or had a lifetime worth of experiences can find the resources to learn the basic functions of a basic part of modern life!

Sorry… I’m sorry. It’s just when people complain about the most trivial things while I’m fighting a war against myself in my mind… it really, really frustrates me.

And it should. It should frustrate a lot of people. You want all that obnoxious shit to shut the fuck up, because all it’s doing is making you more frustrated, and it’s only going to be that much harder to deal with whatever it is you need to deal with. That’s when you want silence.

But then you get silence. And it’s too much. You need some white noise. You need to become distracted at least a little bit. You need idle banter, but with someone that’s not an obnoxious coworker. You don’t want to hear babies screaming while you’re out shopping, but you might want to hear the murmur of the crowds or the music in the stores. You don’t want to listen to the construction outside, or the kids screaming, but the sound of rain, wind, or cars would be nice (but not motorcycles). You want to go out, get something to eat, and not have someone else’s conversations and complaints invade your personal space.

It’s hard, wanting silence but not too much silence. It’s difficult to describe to people, especially people that are unfamiliar with depression. It’s hard enough to describe to yourself, you know? How are you going to describe it to someone that has no clue how to even begin understanding what’s going on in your head? Silence is tricky. And difficult. It’s kind of like a relationship. Sometimes you love it. Sometimes you can’t stand it. And it can be difficult to explain to other people. Silence can leave you with peace of mind, and unfortunately, the fear of the unknown.

On Opening Up To Others

Opening up to people can be a frightful decision, especially if you’re struggling with trust issues or have difficulty expressing yourself. Sometimes you face problems that can’t be explained in a single sentence when someone asks “what’s wrong?” Opening up means telling someone an extended explanation of a personal issue and why it bothers you, not to mention placing faith that the listener will be able to understand. It’s extremely frustrating to work up the courage to talk about something difficult, only to find the person you’re talking to isn’t following or treats your issue as something that can be easily fixed.

When I was in high school I used to wear my heart on my sleeve, so to speak. If someone said “hey, how are you?” I would spill out an unfiltered story about whatever was bothering me. At the time I reasoned that I didn’t want to lie, and if someone asked me how I was, I genuinely thought they wanted to know. It wasn’t until years later that I realized “hey, how are you?” is a greeting, not a literal question, and answering it like a literal question each and every time made me come off like a depressing mess. There’s a big difference between the greeting and the legitimate question, and the sooner you can tell which is which, the sooner you can tell who actually cares.

That being said, just because someone is concerned about you, that doesn’t always mean they’re the right person to open up to. Sometimes a person wants to help but can’t. There are many reasons for this. Conflicting personalities, life views, personal histories- unfortunately, opening up to someone often requires a certain degree of synchronization to be effective. It’s sort of like a relationship; even if two people like each other, they may not be able to make something work between them.

So how can you tell who’s a good person to open up to, or when the appropriate time is? Unfortunately, there is no single answer to these questions. Different people have different problems, and it affects them with different intensities. However, there are a few things you can still do.

Even if there isn’t anyone you feel you can truly open up to, chances are you know a couple of people you’re at least comfortable with. If you’ve never tried speaking to them about deeper issues, try feeling them out. Don’t bombard them with the entirety of what’s bugging you, but casually try to work a small part of your problem into conversation. See how willing they are to listen, show empathy, and ask questions. Who knows? They may be more helpful than you thought. If not, at least you tried. I know that might not seem like a lot now, but it proves you have more strength than you might think.

If it’s possible, you can try therapy. Therapists can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never spoken to one before, but they offer a special opportunity you can’t get anywhere else: you can speak to someone about anything in a closed space, and nothing will ever leave the room. Sometimes people don’t want to open up because they’re afraid it will create conflict with other friends, family, or coworkers. It might seem weird, but speaking to someone that’s not connected to anyone you know has more advantages than you may think. You don’t need to worry about your confessions biting you in the ass. And sometimes you need an outsider’s opinion. Sometimes you’re too involved with a situation, and you create problems that aren’t there. Having an unrelated party listen to you may help you back up enough from the situation to see what’s worth worrying about.

Of course, sometimes there isn’t anyone you can really count on. Sometimes you need to open up, and for whatever reason, other people can’t be counted on or reached. I know. It sucks. There’s this storm inside of you building up, and if you don’t find somewhere to move it, you feel like you’re going to explode. This is why it’s important to be able to rely on yourself. If there isn’t anyone else, open up to you. Take a notebook out and write out how you’re feeling. You can write whatever you want in one sitting, put it down and come back later, keep a daily log, even tear it up once you’re done. You’d be surprised how much better you can feel after writing some thoughts down. Big difference between letting them swim around in your head and putting them out in a physical form.

If writing doesn’t work, you may need to just say it out loud. Try talking to yourself when you’re alone. Scream or cry in a private place. Vlog. Don’t put everything up on YouTube in a desperate attempt to gain pity, but make some video journals just for you. For about a year, I made weekly vlogs to talk about how I was feeling, what I’d been learning, etc. It really helped. It helped me be aware of how I spoke and came off to other people, it helped me see how I fell into the same cycles of depression, and it helped just get some things off my chest. It might seem weird, but if you have a webcam and mic feature on your computer, give it a try. You can always delete it after if you want.

Opening up is never easy. It takes a lot of trust, faith, and courage. And sometimes it never works out. But it’s important to recognize when and who to open up with if you want to make any kind of progress with your situation. Again, everyone has different capabilities and opportunities, so there’s some degree of trial and error associated with this. But keeping everything bottled up inside rarely works out. You need to open up every once and a while. So good luck learning how to do it effectively. 🙂

Summer Memories

Summer is such a strange season for me. I have a lot of negative memories attached to it, so if you read my post about seasonal bad memories, you might think I would generally dread June through August. But strangely, no. And lately I’ve been wondering why.

To start, I guess I can compare summer to the other seasons. Winter used to be my favorite; I prefer cooler weather, so I guess that would make the most sense. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday, and I would always look forward to the holiday season. It felt like a big welcome party for the rest of winter. But after high school, winter’s slowly been annoying me a little more each year. The end of the fall semesters in college (i.e., the holiday season) was always filled with an enormous amount of work that never seemed to end. Getting into the Christmas spirit was difficult when I had to worry about getting multiple projects and term papers finished on time. Working retail drove the nail in the coffin, and now I generally dread Christmastime. And snow… well, I’ve already written about that.

I feel like I always look forward to spring, but end up being extremely disappointed by something before it ends. Most of the time it was heartbreak, but in high school I was always fairly sad at the end of the school year because I wouldn’t see a lot of people for a few months. Fall, in all honesty, should be my favorite season. It’s arguably the most colorful and the temperature’s at my most preferred level. But it’s often when I’m the most nostalgic, and that usually puts me in a melancholy mood. I also dealt with a lot of anxiety in regards to starting school again, and I wasn’t able to enjoy a single fall throughout college because of it.

Summer just seemed… there. Like I said, I have a lot of negative memories attached to summer, especially during high school. A lot of arguments with my best friend, a lot of fights with other friends, and a lot of unexplained frustration accompanied many of my summers. Maybe that’s why it just seemed there; I kind of just… blocked it out.

But I don’t know. Lately summer hasn’t bothered me as much. It’s strange, but I almost want to say I’ve started looking forward to it. I haven’t been thinking about those negative memories for a few years. In fact, I’ve been remembering a lot of positive memories about the summer.

I went to a lot of places with my family. We went to Six Flags Great Adventure at least once per summer. Our school would give us a summer reading sheet to fill out; if we read enough, we would get free tickets to Six Flags. So naturally, I remember a lot of trips to the library. They’d have people read to the kids, and after we’d search for books to borrow. I remember experiencing a lot of Goosebumps books this way, in particular Egg Monsters From Mars, The Beast From the East, and The Cuckoo Clock of Doom (although I only remember what the last one was about; I guess the covers are what I remember most).

I have some memories of visiting the boardwalk a lot, too. I’m sure we were on the beach at some point during those trips, but I remember the boardwalk more. I recall walking the shore streets to actually get there. My mom didn’t want to pay for parking, so we usually found an empty spot on the street several blocks away. Honestly, I don’t blame her. Parking at the beach can be a bitch, and how are we supposed to know how long we’re going to stay? Do we risk putting in too much money and lose it if we leave early? Or do we risk not putting in enough and getting a fine if we stay too long?

There were always a lot of flashing lights and sounds from all the boardwalk games. There were a ton of prizes I wanted to win. South Park became very popular in the late 90s, and I really liked how all the characters looked. Even though my parents wouldn’t let me watch it because I was too young, they let me win some merchandise. I have a couple of key chains with the boys on it, I think I had some wind-up toys or figures, and my mom even won me a fairly large Kenny doll. Yup, my mom won me a toy from a show she wouldn’t allow me to watch. Kind of weird, in retrospect. But I guess not as weird as the time when she won me a Red Dog doll from the Red Dog beer line.

Hmm. Perhaps mom wasn’t always the best influence. Anyway…

The arcades were also really fun. Aside from The Simpsons Arcade Game, I don’t remember playing a lot of specific video games at the boardwalk. I’m sure I tried out those jet ski simulation games, the racing games, and the on-rail shooters, but nothing in particular comes to mind. As much as I loved video games, they were strangely the least appealing part of the arcade for me. I don’t know why, but I remember being drawn to a lot of crane games instead. They always had prizes I desperately wanted but could never win (that talent belonged to my sister), but I would always invest my money in the “play until you win” games so I could at least walk away with something. Ski ball and air hockey were also a lot of fun. Hell, any game that gave me tickets was appealing in its own way. I remember wanting to save up enough so I could get myself something really cool, like a Game Boy or a bike. Sadly, I could never get that many tickets. Still, it was nice to dream.

Speaking of video games, summer was special. I usually just played with my best friend next door (different best friend than the ones mentioned above who I fought with) for most of the year, but during the summer our cousins visited more often and slept over a lot, so we played a lot of multiplayer games. I still clearly remember being in his room with his cousins playing Mario Party 2 and trying to figure out how to play Mario Golf. I also remember playing Pokemon Stadium a lot, as well as Pokemon Snap and Pokemon Puzzle League. It’s a little weird because I don’t remember playing these games at any other time except summer, but we played the main Game Boy ones throughout the entire year. We also played a lot of Super Smash Bros. For whatever reason, that always seemed to bring a group of people together.

I remember renting a lot of games and movies, too. There was a cool video store in a nearby shopping plaza that we often walked to. I rented a handful of games, but honestly, the only one that immediately sticks out was Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Again, I have a pretty clear mental image of me and my next door neighbor playing the game in his room when I slept over one weekend. We played the game all night while his room was decked out like a tent.

Did anyone else do that as a kid? I don’t know if I got the idea from somewhere or I started doing it on my own, but one summer I started tacking up bed sheets to the walls to make my room seem like a tent. I put comforters on the floor, took all the extra pillows and blankets in the house, and made a cool camp-like hideout in my room. My parents didn’t like it, though. It was fine for us kids to come in, but it wasn’t really built for adults. But my best friend and sister liked it so much, they started doing it too, and I guess we decided to transform our rooms every summer. It sounds silly, but… there was something oddly comforting about it.

Sleepovers always seemed to happen in the summer, and at the time it was really exciting. To be at someone else’s house at night and first thing in the morning seemed so bizarre, but it was foreign and fun. Like, “Hey! You brush your teeth before going to bed, too!” Or, “Wow! You eat cereal out of a bowl just like I do!” (No, I’m not sure why things like this fascinated me. I was a strange kid.) I don’t know why it was something that happened almost exclusively during summertime. I guess parents had their hands full, taking us to different places in an attempt to keep us out of trouble, and making us somebody else’s problem for a night was their own little vacation.

You know, freedom and opportunity seem to be recurring themes here. The anxiety of school was out, my parents took my sister and I to a lot of fun places we wouldn’t normally go, and I’d spend more time with friends. When school was let out for the summer, it felt like I could do anything I wanted because I essentially had no responsibilities. Obviously things are different now, as an adult. I still have to go to work, like any other part of the year. And I’m no longer a student, so that sense of freedom at the end of the school year doesn’t exist.

Or does it? I used to dread summer because of some bad memories associated with it, but for the past few years I keep recalling my positive childhood memories. Something about the summer just seems… well, laid-back. Like maybe that’s the whole point of summer. Hell, even adults seem a little lazier during summertime. They tend to relax and see other people more instead of whining about how they’re tired after working. I don’t really have a reason to, but the approach of summer still makes me feel this odd sense of freedom and possibility.

So I think, overall, I’m actually looking forward to the summer. I don’t have any major plans but… well, maybe that’s the point.

 

Drifting Apart

Last week, my parents and I took my cousin out for her birthday. This struck me as kind of weird because we’d never really done this for her before. We’re fairly close, though, and my parents have gone out of their way to do things for her before, so maybe it wasn’t as weird as I initially thought.

Still, it wasn’t a great night. I didn’t really expect it to be; as close as we are as family members, we aren’t particularly close as people. I don’t think we really have anything in common, and we both struggle to find things to talk about. I actually didn’t even want to go. I usually don’t volunteer to go to any kind of social situation where I know I won’t be able to have an actual conversation with someone. But for the sake of showing my support and care for her, I tagged along. We left the house late (of course), and as we took her exit off the parkway, we hit an unexpected backup of traffic. This led to about 20 minutes of my dad cursing, complaining, and being an overall uncomfortable person to be stuck in a small car with.

We met up at a Mexican restaurant, which I thought would be pretty cool because I’ve been craving tacos and quesadillas lately. It was packed, though. And I mean really packed, there were people trying to push through each other in the waiting area alone. When my cousin and her boyfriend came in, we greeted each other and chatted, but the place was so loud I could barely hear anything at all.

The noise didn’t really stop all night. My mother, who was sitting next to me, kept yelling so my cousin, who sat on the other side of me, could hear. And my dad, who spoke loudly all the time anyway, took it up another notch and made sure the whole place could hear him. I was mostly quiet. Sometimes I chimed in with questions or commentary to whatever we were talking about, but as with most social situations with my family, I was usually ignored or spoken over. Eventually, my cousin and parents ran out of things to talk about, and they kind of just faked their way through dinner until the bill came. And as with most situations like these, the greetings and goodbyes were filled with twice as much energy and enthusiasm than the actual get-together was.

On the way home, I sat in the backseat, letting a bunch of frustrated feelings simmer. My earphones decided to give out, too, so I tried playing with the cord to find that one sweet spot that lets me hear music through both buds. Alas, it didn’t help my mood much. My mind was filled with thoughts on how much people change and drift apart from each other, and I started yearning for the days when my dad didn’t flip out and shout as much as he does now, when my sister was still living with us, when my sister and I actually got along, and when seeing family felt nice as opposed to some kind of chore. And it’s nothing new; I’d thought about this a lot over the years and accepted that we’re all just different people. But sometimes I still wish for things to be different, and it frustrates me.

When we got home, I could tell that I was getting into one of my overly negative, over thinking, shitty moods. I just went through one a couple of weeks ago, and I really didn’t want to fall back into another one so soon, so I called a friend and tried to explain my night and feelings on it without trying to sound like I was about to crack. So we talked for an hour, mostly about how people drift apart and attempts to get close again (which that dinner kind of seemed like). And even though it’s an unfortunate, inevitable part of life, it made me feel better getting it off my chest.

Like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a new concept for me or anything. There have been many people that came and went, some more gracefully than others. It’s sad when people drift apart, but at least it’s better than relationships that end with one person hurting another. When people drift, at least they’re still on good terms. Meetings may be awkward, and they may never reach a level that you’d like them to, but at least there’s no hate. Well, usually.

And sometimes people need to drift from each other. It’s sad, but it’s true. Sometimes you think you’re close with someone, and maybe you were, but tastes and needs change. Sometimes two people need to drift a little and reexamine who they are. And that in and of itself is very healthy. You need to be comfortable knowing who you are and what you need in order to have good relationships. It’s just that sometimes, it turns out old friends and family can’t fulfill those needs.

It’s sad, but well… sometimes it just happens. And it’s important to be able to know how to make yourself happy so you don’t crave relationships that don’t work anymore.