A Look Back on 2017

So I’ve started this tradition on Facebook in which at the beginning of a new year, I take a look back on the previous year and list the things I learned. This year, I thought it might be easier for me, and less annoying for my Facebook friends if I just make it a blog post instead of typing it all in a status. So here goes!

This last year was a year of transition for me. I didn’t get engaged or married, but I spent the year planning a wedding. I didn’t do much of anything huge, but everything changed nonetheless. So here’s some of the things I learned in 2017:

1: It’s a little difficult during a long engagement, watching others get engaged and married, long before your date is even close. It’s okay to be a little jealous, as long as you remember that your day will come, and it’s okay to be happy for others on their day. Be cool!

2: Starting your own business is super hard. Stick to it. You can only crush your goals if you keep trying to crush your goals.

3: MENTAL HEALTH IS STILL THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.

4: When your best friend leaves for eighteen months, you’ll imagine over and over what it’ll be like to hug them when you finally see them again. It’ll be much better than you’d imagined.

5: Amidst bill paying, buying cat food, school, and work, it’s easy to forget what made you fall in love with your man in the first place. It’s easy to fall into a pattern and forget to notice all the things you love about him. Make sure you take time to notice and appreciate the great things about him, because they’re there, and he’s amazing.

6: Remember to remind yourself, during wedding planning, that you are the luckiest girl in the world. And even if everything goes wrong on your wedding day, at the end of it, you’ll be married to the most perfect man, and you’ll have an amazing marriage and life. Trust me.

7: Money is a big deal. But do you know what’s an even bigger deal? Your relationships. Calm down, communicate, and you’ll figure everything out.

8: The Office and Friends are the all time best T.V. shows. This is not up for discussion.

9: 24 might not be the year you magically have it together. Don’t worry! There are still a lot of good ages to try!

10: When your man has a birthday, go all out and get him something big that he really wants. His smile when he opens it will make you tear up for literal years to come.

11: Laugh more.

12: Kidney stones are the worst things imaginable. The only thing that’s even slightly worse is the surgery to blast the kidney stones. Drink lots of water, kids.

13: Hospital stays are not relaxing, they’re exhausting.

14: Don’t avoid making more friends. Friends are nice things to have.

15: Call your parents often. It’ll help, I promise.

16: Don’t stress too much about the future. It’s not here yet.

17: If you get a great new job opportunity, take it. Even if it’ll be a huge change and take you completely out of your comfort zone. Take it.

18: Read Harry Potter again. I say it every year, and I’m not going to stop.

19: Be kind to all humans. It’ll pay off.

20: Never forget how much you’re worth. You are amazing and divine and beautiful, and you deserve to know it. Love yourself to the end of time.

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Mental Health and the Holidays

The holidays really are the most wonderful time of the year. As a little girl, I used to look forward to them all throughout the spring and summer. As an adult, the holidays signal a change in season, which can, unfortunately, trigger increased levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges we’ve come to know, and *ahem* love. Not to mention the societal pressure of parties, and, well, socializing, that’s expected of us as humans with friends and family. Which is not to say that I don’t love a good party! I can awkward shuffle dance with the best of them! But even shuffling can be difficult when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

So I’m here to share some (hopefully) helpful tips for surviving the holiday season, even when you really don’t want to.

Let yourself get lost in the wonder. I mean, sure, you don’t believe in Santa anymore, but there are plenty of ways to find yourself in awe of the season that everybody loves. One of my personal favorites is literally anything involving Christmas lights. Here in Utah, people go crazy with Christmas lights, and for me, there’s nothing more invigorating than bundling up and wandering through a park that’s all lit up especially for Christmas. I like to imagine the light going right into my soul and lighting me up for Christmas, too.

Find joy in things that don’t take too much energy. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to expend energy on things you love. But sometimes, when you’re feeling drained, it’s really important to find your joy in things that save energy, rather than use it. Today, for instance, I made myself and my roommate cups of cocoa, and we just sat together and drank them. It took little to no energy, and I definitely enjoyed it immensely.

List your gratitude. Each morning since the leaves started to turn, I’ve tried to take some time for myself and list at least five things I’m grateful for. Some days it’s a struggle to make it to five. Some days I can’t even get myself to make the list. But if you start your day out with thinking about things you’re grateful for, you’ll be off to a much better start than if you started worrying about all the things you need to accomplish.

Your mental health is more important than that party. Parties are fun. They’re a part of the holiday season, and it’s nice to get dressed up and see all your friends. But not at the expense of your mental health. If you need to stay home and binge watch The Office in your pj’s, your friends will understand, I promise. However, never underestimate the power of getting dolled up and dancing the night away with your girls. You know what’s best for you, and you should do that, no matter what anybody says.

 

I am not a mental health professional. To be quite frank, I know literally nothing, besides what helps me when things get bad in my world. But I love you all so much, and if anything I say can help, well, I’d like to try. I wish you luck and happiness as you navigate the holidays, and I hope that nothing so bad happens that a cup of cocoa can’t fix.

Much love,

Ky

Things change.

All the time, actually.

For example, in 2011 I favored jeans to leggings, and I used my hair straightener daily. Those things just aren’t true anymore. Now, I prefer the rain over sunshine, and I’d rather be alone than with people. These are just simple facts of life.

In April of 2016, when I graduated from Southern Utah University, I was so sick of looking at my computer screen. I didn’t think I’d ever want to write again. I didn’t even open my laptop for a solid six months. I can’t believe it happened, but I was sick of making up stories.

So I didn’t.

But yesterday, I found myself sitting on my bed with a notebook open in front of me, writing down story starters as they came to me and watching my cat stare out the window. To make this even more cliche, I should say I was drinking tea, but I wasn’t, so I won’t.

But I realized, just because I was sick of writing a year ago doesn’t mean I’m always going to be sick of writing.

And to be honest, I’m not that bad at it.

So I guess I’m back, internet friends. I’m excited to see how our friendship grows.

I’m aware that I suck.

Like no really. But there’s something that I need to say. And I want it said to everybody. So, my lovely followers, share this, if you would. It would mean the world to me.

When I was a senior in high school, my grandfather killed himself. Just like that. It’s amazing how easily you can say something that changed your whole entire world. I sang Ave Maria at his funeral. The amount of love I had for him never wavered. Not once did I resent him or his decision–until I started wondering if I could do the same. It took me a few years to realize that what I was dealing with was depression. I didn’t get it. But I was lost. So lost. I didn’t care about anything: grades, friends, relationships. I just floated. Scraping by in my classes, pretending to care. That’s where I messed up the most. If I hadn’t pretended for so long, maybe I would have realized sooner what I was up against. But hindsight is 20/20, am I right? So here I am, a junior in college, wondering why in the hell I can’t get out of bed. Then Kay mentions depression. “You have a lot of the symptoms that my friend had, and she was diagnosed,” she says. And of course it makes sense. Okay, so I know I’m depressed. But then what do I do about it? I sit at home, and let Kay drag me out of bed, when it’s needed. Again, hindsight. Every day I come home from work exhausted, ready to take a whole bottle of pills, stopped only by the memory of how I felt when my grandfather did it to us. What else am I supposed to do? This persists, throughout the summer, through good news and bad, and it gets worse. I take out the pills. I look at them. I shake my head. I can’t. I’m a coward. Rinse and repeat. I get put on leave from my job for reasons that really don’t matter, and add failure to the list of things that describe me. Plus, Kay is gone, living in Vegas for the summer, and when I’m in my room, I don’t have to pretend for anybody.

That seems to be the root of my problems, pretending. It’s so easy for me. To pretend that I’m happy when I’m not. I do it, even now, when I know better, and Kay is a seasoned professional at noticing when it’s happening. But thank god for people who know you better than you know yourself. Thank god for picking friends who care enough to know you that well. I thank god every day for Kay, and her vast understanding of my vault titled, “Things I Never Tell Anybody.” And for Jen, my cousin who opened her home to me, and let me share her life while I struggled to find mine.

And so the summer ended. Kay moved back in with me, in the basement of my cousin’s house, and here my problems get worse. I start experiencing psychosis, which is defined as a disconnect from reality. I started seeing a man, following me around. I called him the Shadow Man. He really messed with my head. He hid behind the piano in my cousin’s house. He sent spiders into my room. I freaked out. A lot. For the first time in our relationship, Kay had to be the strong one. It wasn’t easy. I made an appointment with a counselor at my school. She sent me to a family doctor, who suggested I start taking an anti-depressant, anti-psychotic combo. Those pills took me out for a few days. It took two weeks for me to get used to them. I still shy away from shadows. I still have trouble getting out of bed. But I’m so much better than I was. I’m trying. I’m trying so hard, and it’s hard, trying this hard. I’m exhausted from trying so hard.

I want you to know that I don’t have anything profound to say about depression. I don’t know how to break the stigma surrounding mental illness. I don’t know much of anything at this point. The thing I know is that a good support system can be a game changer. Surround yourself with people who get satisfaction from seeing you succeed. Otherwise, you won’t succeed. And never stop trying. Try until you feel like you can’t anymore. Try so hard that you feel like you’re the only one who has ever tried so hard. Giving up isn’t an option. Being strong is our only option. And it’s the only one I’m every going to take again. I choose strong. I choose one more breath, especially when it feels like that’s all I can handle. I choose life.

I love you guys.

–Ky

Saturday Short Story–TEASER

I just wanted to give ya’ll a little taste of what I’ve been working on. This is the beginning of a short story called “Take My Hand”, and I am so excited about it. We will also be doing a photoshoot to go with this one, so be on the lookout! It’s about a girl struggling with depression, surviving with the help of her love, and as you know, internet friends, I struggle also. So I would like to take a minute to dedicate this story to my love, who not only takes my hand when he knows I’m crumbling, but he holds it constantly and walks with me through the bad times. I’m very grateful and blessed to have found somebody who will walk with me instead of wait for me at the other side of the darkness. Thank you thank you, dear. I love you so much.

Now that the mush is over, let’s get to the teaser!

I am standing in a black room, facing a wall, head down, eyes closed. For some reason, I can’t open them. Maybe I won’t open them, I don’t know. I feel something behind me, but don’t turn to look. The darkness swirls behind my eyelids, sparking my fear and sending a jolt of adrenaline through me. I force open my eyelids, turn away from the wall and see… Nothing.

As I stand there, staring into the nothingness, a voice calls out to me, “Tessa?” I squint into the darkness, trying to see the source of the voice, and then feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn my head, wildly, frantically, trying to see the arm attached to the hand, trying to see anything. I’m suffocating on black now, fear choking me, struggling for air. Then I open my eyes again, and see Jenson leaning above me, hand on my shoulder. His eyes are drowsy from sleep, his hair tousled. In his eyes, I see the fear that comes from knowing me, loving me. Loving me means sleepless nights wondering if I’ll be able to pull myself out of my own head. I understand the repercussions of loving me, but I’m too selfish to let Jenson go. And he’s too selfless to ask me to.

“Another one?” He says, love and compassion replacing the fear in his eyes. I nod. “Maybe we should—“

“No,” I say. “I’m fine, Jenson, it was just a dream.” He nods, now. This is why I can’t let go. Because he understands that I am not my depression. I am not my bad dreams and bouts of endless tears. And he believes like I do that I am strong enough to live another day outside of the hospital. Every day, we wake up together, believing and hoping for just one more normal day. And so far, for almost 200 days, we’ve made it work. Hope can do a lot, if you let it.

© Kylie Owens and My friends call me Ky, 2015.

Short Story Saturday: The Colors of Thomas and Austen

This story was so easy to write, it was as if it needed to come out of me. This is a part of a project for school, so to accompany this I will be doing a photoshoot to match. Pics to come. You guys are the best. Hope you like it.

Much love,

Ky

Thomas looked hard at his reflection, but still saw only himself, black and white. Black hair, grey eyes, white teeth. He had heard stories (Legends, he was starting to think,), of people who saw colors.  They say it happens when you find The One. Thomas didn’t believe that. He couldn’t imagine that it would be a girl who eventually made him see color. But then, he’d never met a girl who didn’t make him want to rip his hair out. They were exasperating, and kind of scary. He had always been fine without them, seeing in black and white. It stood to reason that he would continue to be fine in the same way. He looked at his watch, realizing that he was going to be late for work if he pondered much longer. He smoothed his hair, and picked up his briefcase on his way out the door.

“Tom! I’ve been calling your name for like five minutes,” Veronica’s singsong whine suddenly burst through his cloud of consciousness, and he looked up at her.

“Sorry, Ron, just busy, you know.”

“No, I don’t know,” she said. “You haven’t produced anything in the last week. You haven’t even had artists in! That’s not why I’m here. Tonight’s opening night at that new bar down the street, The Lost Candle. Weird name, I know, but it’s supposed to be great. Seven o’clock. You’re coming, Mr. Busy-Pants.”

He sighed, “Okay, I’ll come. For an hour, tops.” She squealed like a small child and dashed out of his office, probably so he couldn’t change his mind. He fought the urge to go after her and rescind his answer. She was always trying to get him to hit up the bars after work with her certified “After Work Crowd” but he’d never accepted any of the offers. In fact, he really didn’t know why he had said yes today. Maybe it was the whining. He couldn’t stand adults whining, and Veronica did it often. Maybe if he went with them just once, she’d stop talking to him altogether. The thought made him smile.

When 7:02 rolled around as Thomas was just shutting down his computer, Veronica waltzed into his office, wearing a very short dress. She twirled, and said, “Well? Are you ready for the time of your life?” He shrugged, put on his coat, and led the way outside. The bar was about a two minute walk, but Veronica and her friends, two girls that Thomas didn’t know, were tottering on ridiculously high heels, and wouldn’t walk faster than a slow stroll. They made it to the door ten minutes later, and found themselves a table and a waiter to order drinks and appetizers from. Within less than thirty minutes, the girls had bored of Thomas, who tried to engage them in conversation, and had wandered away to find more worthy ways to spend their night. Thomas, his main goal accomplished, finished his drink and stood to leave. As he turned to the door, not looking, he heard somebody yelling.

“Well I didn’t ask you to buy it, and I’m certainly not going to dri—oof!” Thomas collided with the woman, sending her stumbling, and quickly reached out to catch her arm.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry!” Thomas cried, trying desperately to help her right herself. “I wasn’t looking, it was all my fault, and I can—“ He trailed off when he caught a look at her smiling face. There, in the middle of all the black, white, and grey, her eyes seemed to be an explosion of something he couldn’t identify right away, but it definitely wasn’t grey, he knew that.

“Hi,” her voice was very soft. “I’m Austen.”

“Thomas,” he said, not letting go of her arm.

All at once, he realized what he was seeing. It was color.

Austen couldn’t shake the thought of those crazy myths from her head. Well, she had thought they were myths, until she saw the vibrant color of Thomas’s eyes. She didn’t know what color it was, she’d never seen anything other than black and white. But she knew it was color. They had exchanged numbers, and had been texting. She’d seen more colors, since that night: flowers, clothing, and the sky. She’d been doing research, trying to discern which colors were which, but she wasn’t coming up with much, all that she knew was that Thomas’s eyes were very similar to the color of the sky. They were meeting for their second date in two days, and she kept waking up certain that all the color was gone. But so far, it wasn’t. Everywhere she turned, she would find something vibrant. The sky was constantly color, though, reminding her of Thomas’s eyes.

Friday night found her sitting across the table from Thomas, wondering if he was seeing color as well. She was afraid to ask, because the myths said that seeing color meant that you had found your soulmate, which would be pretty awkward to bring up on the second date. But she kept noticing that his hair wasn’t black like she had thought. It was yet another color she didn’t recognize, wasn’t familiar with. The champagne wasn’t just clear, it had a tint of color. The food, the tablecloths, everywhere she looked, something was saturated with color. She had a hard time drinking it all in, she wanted to stare at everything. Suddenly, she realized that it had been several minutes since either of them had said a word. She looked at Thomas, who was looking at the world with as much wonder as she felt.

“You see it too, then?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Let’s get out of here.” She nodded and picked up her purse.

They walked down Center Street hand in hand, not speaking, just looking for every glimpse of color they could find. Austen wanted to jump up and down and squeal for joy. Color! She thought, I never thought I’d see this! She looked over at Thomas, just as he looked her way, and smiled. He stopped, and moved to stand in front of her. “We take it slow,” he said. “Normal, traditional. That said, I’m going to kiss you now.” She smiled as he lowered his lips to hers, and closed her eyes. Behind them, as his lips touched hers, she saw an explosion of color, all the colors she could imagine, and she knew that nothing would ever be the same again.

2 years later

Austen slid out of bed, careful not to wake Thomas. As she did, she noticed the glimmer of the ring on her left hand. It was new, as of yesterday. She felt a thrill rush through her as she looked at the blue colored diamond. They were always very careful to pick things with color. They remembered what it was like to live without it. When they first started dating, they had done research, and made flashcards of all the colors they could find names to, and had practiced with them, memorizing the names, and making up names for the ones they couldn’t find. They picked new favorite colors almost every week, even now, two years later.

She wandered through the house, studying all the colors they had mixed together to make it uniquely theirs. The kitchen was blue and yellow, with plants growing in all the windowsills. The living room wine (Their own name.), and royal purple, and navy blue. The guest bathroom was mint green and coral. The guest bedroom was green, all shades of it. Their master bedroom and bathroom were blue and green, the colors of each of their eyes, the first colors they had ever seen. Austen smiled to herself as she walked back past a sleeping Thomas to get in the shower.

Thomas heard the shower start and turned to look at the clock. 7:15. Austen had always been a morning person. Maybe I’ll run and get bagels at that shop she loves, he thought, and then suddenly remembered that he had a meeting with an artist scheduled for 7:30. “Shit!” he said, as he ran into the bathroom. “Shit, shit, shit!”

Austen stopped singing and poked her wet head out of the shower curtain. “What?”

“I have that meeting today!”

“Oh yeah,” she said with a sigh. “Darn. I thought we could get a jump start on planning.”

Thomas kissed her. “I’ll be back before noon. We can go then. Besides, I’m sure there’s stuff to do that you don’t need me for, right? Super-secret bride stuff, yeah?”

Austen smiled. “Like I’m gonna tell you!”

Thomas smiled back, and left the room, calling out as he went, “I love you!” but Austen had already gone back to singing loudly.

By the time Thomas made it to the office, he was twenty minutes late to his meeting. Luckily, his secretary had covered for him, and his client was still there. She was fairly young, accompanied by her mom, looking to record a demo. He discussed styles and dates with them for an hour before everything was settled, and he was able to bring out the paperwork. He was looking it so intensely that he didn’t notice the change in his vision until he looked up.

All the color was gone.

He reached up to rub his eyes, once, twice, but nothing changed. The blue walls now looked gray. The chocolate colored chairs looked black. The clients were looking at him with concerned looks on their faces.

“Thomas, are you okay?” the girl asked.

“No,” Thomas ground out. “No I’m not. I’m going to have to have my secretary go over this contract with you, and you can make a recording appointment with her at the desk, okay?” He finished it with a question, but made it clear that it wasn’t an option by helping them up and herding them out his office door. He shut the door behind them, and moved quickly to his phone, punching in Austen’s number. No answer. He tried again. Still nothing. He called over and over again, swearing under his breath each time he heard the beginning of her voicemail, until he heard his secretary’s voice over the intercom.

“Sir?” the voice said, “Call for you on line two.”

“Thank you,” he called out and picked up the phone.

Thomas stared down at Austen, lying motionless on the steel table, in black and white. He closed his eyes and remembered her in color, her beautiful green eyes and copper colored hair. He motioned to the police officer. “This is her,” he said numbly. The officer nodded, pity evident in his features. Thomas turned to walk away, but the officer stopped him.

“Here’s what we found on her,” he held out a bag. “She was crossing the street, and the lady in the van, soccer mom, I think, just didn’t see her.”

Thomas sighed, “Well, she isn’t—wasn’t very tall.”

“But with that hair…I don’t know. Listen, if you want to take action, you know… Legally, just let me know.”

Thomas shook his head. “No,” he said.

The officer nodded, and this time, he let Thomas go.

1 year later

There was a knock at the door. Thomas looked around the room. It looked exactly the same as it had a year earlier, even though he couldn’t see the colors. Austen had loved them. He stood and moved to open the door. Outside stood a tall woman with wild curly hair. She smiled at Thomas. “I just moved in next door, and I thought I’d introduce myself around,” she smiled. “So, I’m Margaret. I’ve heard from the other neighbors not to come here, that you didn’t want to be disturbed, but I figure everybody needs to be disturbed every once in a while.”

Thomas nodded, and stuck out his hand. “Thomas,” he said. “And they were right, but so are you.”

“You wanna talk about it?” she asked.

“Maybe sometime,” he said.

She smiled. “Okay. Well, see ya!” and turned and left. Thomas closed the door, and turned back into his house.

There, in the vase on the coffee table, he noticed one of the roses was a beautiful, vibrant red.

A little beautiful book, and words of comfort.

Okay, yes, it’s June. And the semester ended the first week of May. Yes, I procrastinate. But I’m back, internet friends and I’m ready to set the blogosphere on FIRE! Not literally. Although fireworks would be cool. But I digress.

I just read this fabulous book by Jandy Nelson called The Sky Is Everywhere. Whoa, you guys. Go get yourself a library card (I did!), get on amazon, ebay, WHATEVER, and find this book. I was enthralled. It covers all my favorite things, death, sadness, happiness, new love, old love, family, all these things that you’d be crazy to not want to read about, am I right? I don’t want to give everything away, but I am going to share two quotes that not only made me break down into tears, but also made me think really hard. Here we go:

“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Aw Ky, you totally just gave it away that somebody dies!” but I really didn’t, Just read the book. You’ll see. Next!

“I try to fend off the oceanic sadness, but I can’t. It’s such a colossal effort not to be haunted by what’s lost, but to be enchanted by what was.”

Oh my gosh, right? What a beautiful stringing together of words. I share this with you today as a reminder to those of you who hurt. Those of you who feel like continuing to exist is too much. It’s a colossal effort, I know, but please please make that effort. You are stronger than your pain. You won’t stop feeling. You’ll never stop wishing that you could share your victories with them. You’ll never stop missing their hugs. But you will find solace in others’ hugs. You’ll find that you can feel them in your victories, even though they are not there. The effort is half the battle, and God will meet you halfway with comfort.

Remember that, my friends.

Much love,

Ky