My Honey Bunches of Oats

It was the seventh grade and I was the new kid. Sitting in Orchestra one day, the fire alarm went off. Filing outside, my class stood underneath the maple tree in the front of our school that was just beginning to lose its leaves. That was when she introduced herself to me.

“Hi! I’m Emily. You’re Abbey right?”

Her confidence was obvious. And her personality seemed to radiate out of her body. She wore a Jets sweatshirt, cargo capris, and green etnies sneakers. Her curly light brown hair was pulled into a low ponytail, and green eyes peered through glasses to look me over. She wanted to know where I came from and how I was liking school. It was typical conversation that the new kid (which I happened to be) experienced, but for some reason ever since we filed back into the school after that fire drill, we were inseparable.

We became stand partners in orchestra, which encouraged our friendship to grow as we both realized that we were passionate about the violin. We dreamed of going to Juilliard and playing fiddle shows across the world. In our imaginations, our futures looked something like this:

Barrage

After months of talking in orchestra class, we finally decided to hang out outside of school. It was wintertime now and Emily’s mom dropped her off at my house. While our parents talked outside, we walked up my front steps and into my house. I could tell we were both a little nervous to be hanging out outside of the safe environment of school. What if we had nothing to talk about? Slowly though, we each came out of our shells and started talking and laughing about all the people in school we found particularly strange and all the movies we discovered we both liked. For lunch, I made us both frozen pizzas and we ate them on my bedroom floor with glasses of apple juice. When her mom came to pick her up later that day, we wished we had more time.

On the last day of seventh grade, I took Emily’s bus home to her house. We ran into her bedroom and cried our eyes out because we were afraid everyone would forget us by September. Secretly, I think it was just fun to be a little dramatic. We felt our lives were a television series; a network just hadn’t picked us up yet.

That summer we created the memories that lie at the foundation of our friendship. Despite Emily’s habit of sleeping with the television on, forcing me to wear a sleep mask, I began sleeping over for days at a time. While staying up till all hours of the night that summer, I discovered bagels with cream cheese; nearly broke my nose on her kitchen chair while ducking from a moth that was flying towards my head; played games of chess that lasted hours; developed a love-hate relationship with her cat; learned Emily’s passion for all things Disney; and became a member of her family. I met her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her cousins. They all treated me as one of their own. Even now, eight years later, I love staying at her house where I know I am safe and supported by not only her, but her whole family as well. They give me a place where I feel like I belong. Where I feel I am a part of something bigger than just myself.

In the following years, we developed a sisterly bond. And like all sisters, we had our fair share of fights. What is a good television series without a little conflict, anyway? Looking back, I’m pretty sure adolescent hormones fueled most of our arguments. However, through our fights, we learned that we don’t want to live without the other. It’s awfully hard to stay mad at the person who will sing classical music while riding the Ferris wheel at a carnival to distract you from your insane fear of heights; who will hold your hand through an entire movie no matter how stupid it is; who will take care of you when you are sick; who will become as insanely passionate about a book series as you (or more so); who tries out for softball with you despite both of your athletic inability; who makes you a better musician; who believes in soul mates like she believes in air; and who doesn’t punch you after you’ve thrown a glass of water in her face.

This past October, Emily came to visit me in my college town. I knew something was wrong, but waited for her to tell me on her own time. Sitting at a restaurant with people constantly streaming by our table, televisions with volumes was way too high, and conversations buzzing in the room, she told me that one of her relatives was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer. I was devastated. In my mind, I thought I had taken the brunt of all bad things that could happen within my circle of friends since my dad died of cancer. I never thought any of my friends would be affected by what I had gone through. Unconsciously, I had the feeling that what I had been through was somehow worth it, because it would protect all the people I loved from having to experience the same thing. Sadly, I was mistaken.

It was in Emily’s time of crisis that I realized just how much I truly loved her. Not romantical love; companionate love. Because Emily was in pain, I felt it within myself. Knowing that she was hurting and knowing how it was affecting me was proof that I truly loved her because I wanted to do anything to take her pain away. In my opinion, this is one important signifier of love. Love involves being willing to do anything to keep the other person from feeling pain, even if it means feeling it yourself. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do. I was helpless. And I realized how she must have felt for the two years my dad was sick. It’s hard to be the friend of someone going through painful experiences because nothing you say or do can really truly help. It can’t fix the root cause of their pain. But what I’ve learned, from Emily’s example, is that simply by being a friend, checking in, and making the other person laugh, you can ease it.

Unlike my dad, Emily’s relative is doing very well now and I couldn’t be happier for her and her family. Things can always change, and if they do, I will be there beside my best friend to help her along the way.

Emily and I have a lot of years ahead of us. And it’s great to know that we’ll be by each other’s sides no matter what. I look forward to the memories we will create and can only hope they’ll be as outrageous as the one’s we’ve already shared. Emily may dream of finding her prince charming one day, but until then, I suppose she’s stuck with me.

abbeyandemily

Those Who Have Vanished

Last month I had the honor of meeting the poet, Robert Collins at my university. He did a poetry reading from his newest book, “Naming The Dead.” This was the first poem he read. I highly recommend him to anyone looking for a good, approachable poem that will touch your heart.  

We read of them in the papers
in notices smaller than obituaries.
They’re the strangers who step out
one evening for a brief breath of air
or to the store to pick up some bread
and, turning a corner or leaving
the train, vanish and never return.

The police put out their APB’s,
but somehow they slip through
like aliens swimming under water.
Search lights sweep the suburbs
like the second hands of clocks,
and the river’s dragged for bodies,
but dragnets fill only with shadows.

I think of those I’ve loved
and thought I knew and lost.
How we got so far apart
we couldn’t find a way back
remains a mystery to me
as if we left nothing behind
we could ever have wanted.

And sometimes, like tonight, I think
that someone lost like myself
might be out there searching still,
dragging the long, slow waters
of moonless nights without sleep,
and I want to say, “I’m still here,
not far away, I haven’t forgotten,”
as we each fade farther and farther
into the lives we have chosen.

What Is Love?

Sitting in my car the other day in front of a strip mall, I watched people pass by from all paths of life. I saw parents and their children, men dressed up in business suits, and teenagers with clothes way too tight to permit breathing. I started thinking about how different we are from each other and all the unique stories we each have to share. Then I thought of the things we must all have in common. There must be some things we all share besides our species.

And so I thought, what are the things we all want from life?

I decided that besides being happy, there is at least one other thing we all want in life. And that’s to experience love, either by giving it, receiving it, or ideally, both.

Maybe it’s just me—and if so, I give you full permission to tease me mercilessly—but whenever the topic of love comes up it seems that we all think of romance with a beautiful man or woman being swept off their feet in a whirlwind love affair. Maybe this image comes to mind?

titanic10n-6-web

We think of Valentine’s Day, chocolates, bouquets of roses and steamy nights spent in bed. We all have an image of what the perfect lover would be like and what they may even look like. It’s no surprise that we think this way though, considering how the media portrays love in movies and television shows and how they market celebrities as the ultimate lovers.But there are so many different types of love. We don’t love our parents the same way we love our partners. We don’t love our friends the same way we love our pets.

According to psychologist Robert Sternberg, there are three components that make up the various forms of love. They are 1) Intimacy, feeling close or attached to someone 2) Passion, sexual attraction to another, and 3) Commitment, the decision to stay with the other person in the short or long term. He calls it the “triangular theory of love”. Using this theory, we can identify all different forms that love takes.

There’s nonlove, which is the absence of all three components, intimacy, passion, and commitment. This is how we may feel toward a stranger on the street. Unless they’re banging’ hot, of course.

In that case, we would experience Infatuated Love, where we have no true attachment or intimacy toward the other and no commitment, but we feel physically attracted to them. It’s hard to admit, but this is how I feel toward Harry Styles. (No shame!)

Then there’s liking/friendship. This is when we feel close to another person but feel no physical attraction or commitment to them. This may be how we feel about an acquaintance at work or school.

Empty Love is when we experience no emotional or physical connection with the other person but remain committed to the other; this may be seen in a marriage that has fizzled but remains together just for the sake of doing so.

Companionate Love (the kind of love I’ve experienced the most) is feeling emotionally close to someone knowing that we will stay committed to the other person but with no physical attraction. This is how most of us feel toward our best friends.

Fatuous Love is how we might feel toward someone we have a committed physical relationship with in the absence of emotional connection.

Romantic love involves being physically and emotionally close with someone but having no commitment to the person. This is what is shown in most movies and therefore what we may yearn for, without knowing that there’s an even better form of love out there.

And that’s what I think is the ultimate form of love that we are really dreaming of, which is Consummate Love. This is the presence of all three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment, where we feel emotionally and physically connected to someone and have committed to staying together.

Here’s a pretty little chart to explain it all:

Intimacy Passion Commitment
Nonlove
Liking/Friendship X
Infatuated Love X
Empty Love X
Romantic Love X X
Companionate Love X X
Fatuous Love X X
Consummate Love X X X

I truly believe in the saying that you have to love yourself before you can love another and after taking the time last year to do just that, I’ve been able to become aware of how to show my love to the people in my life. I may have brought consciousness to this area of my life but I’m no expert on any type of love. Far from it. But there are a few people in my life who have helped me realize what it means to love another. Of course my family has helped teach me this but there are four women in my life that have especially helped teach me what love is, in all of its various forms. And the best part about it is that all of these girls are my dearest friends.

I have been graced with these beautiful people in my life and want to show each of them how much they mean to me and what they’ve taught me, without even knowing it. Each of these women share characteristics that should be celebrated in all people.  They are each intelligent beyond measure in all different subjects. They are all caring, supportive, encouraging, and despite the challenges they have experienced in life, have risen above them to live the lives they each dream of. They are determined and hard-working and most importantly, are wonderful to talk to, have great senses of humor and live life to the fullest.

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing stories about each of these women in my life and what they’ve taught me about love.I hope you’ll follow the stories of my friendships with these women as I know that what they’ve taught me are things we can all learn from.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is an amazing documentary that examines women’s lives in ten countries around the world: Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and the U.S. These girls are living under unimaginable circumstances and yet, are rising above their oppression to create better lives for themselves than generations before. These women are truly inspirational, help put perspective on our own lives and are raising awareness about the living conditions women around the world must face. I highly recommend watching this documentary in the hopes that each person who learns of these living conditions will take one step towards ending them.

Hal Little

Today I’m doing something different. I’m off to a one-hundred year celebration of the firehouse my grandpa worked at his whole life this morning so I decided to post a silly short fiction piece since I won’t have time to write a full length narrative today. I hope you enjoy the change of pace! 

Hal Little dreamed big. Hal spent his whole life dreaming of driving his car all the way to Pluto. So one day, Hal got into his silver Honda, roared the engine, and took off. He figured he’d be gone for a while so he stopped to get gas, a bagel—with butter not cream cheese–and a bottle of orange juice—no pulp. He took off from planet Earth, passed over his town, and rode the clouds until he got so far out into the atmosphere that the sky was no longer blue. He hopped onto a star for a while and although it was spectacular, he found it to be a little blinding. So on he went. His stomach growled for food but he ignored it. He crashed onto Mars but was disappointed when there wasn’t a single alien to greet him. He arrived on Jupiter only to realize that the inclement weather made it quite difficult to drive. Landing briefly on Saturn, then Uranus, and then Neptune, Hal was not impressed. But he believed Pluto would be different. It was starting to get cold since the sun was so far away now and Hal started to wish he had brought his pea coat. But instead, he just blasted the heat in his little silver honda. He didn’t mind the breeze against his curly blonde locks but he did wish he had brought some hand lotion. The hot air really dried his skin out.

Finally, hitching a meteor heading in Pluto’s direction, Hal passed some time reminiscing. He remembered his first science fair and how he had reported on Pluto, when it was just a far away planet that no one seemed interested in. He then recalled the day he found out Pluto was no longer considered a planet and how he became so horrified at this insult that he didn’t talk to his science teacher for a week. Hal felt even worse that nobody seemed to care about Pluto anymore. It was no longer taught in schools and Hal felt that eight planets just did not seem complete. But Hal was proud that he hadn’t forgotten. As he came out of his trance, Hal suddenly realized he had no idea where he was. He had been distracted by daydreams and now he was lost. He tried to relocate himself, but he was disoriented now and all his GPS said was “Recalculating…recalculating.”

For days Hal kept looking for the beautiful plutoid…driving, waiting for it to pass. It never came by.

But don’t you worry; Hal went on. Hal went out and out and out into the universe. And sometimes, on a really clear night you can still see Hal’s silver Honda riding the stars. Hal Little dreamed big.

Hal Litte