Loved Ones and Leaving

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form

Almost two years ago I lost my pepere (grandfather, for those of you confused) and he was one of the most special men I have ever known. He was one of the very few people I have ever known who can be so incredibly kind, while still being absolutely hilarious all at once.  He went out of his way to make everyone else’s day special 365 days a year, and very rarely took time for himself. Even when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he didn’t slow down or miss a beat. He continued to be his usual self, showing up at our house unannounced to deliver pizzas, cracking jokes left and right, and taking me out to lunches at his favorite spot- the Empire Buffet. Even as the end came closer, he was still making us laugh. “Do you want me to buy you a body pillow, to help you sleep better?” my mom asked him as we all sat around the dinner table at his house one night in May. “No.” he said, and added with a chuckle, “the only thing you can get me is a body bag.” As everyone else’s faces slipped into shock and they exclaimed “Gene!” I laughed along with him. Even though the joke was terribly morbid and a reminder of what we knew was coming near, that joke meant that he was still my pepere, the same man who made a joke out of anything no matter how serious the situation. The summer before he passed away, I spent several days a week at his house, doing our favorite activity- swimming in his pool. Ever since I was a child he loved to swim with us, and every time we visited he asked if we brought our bathing suits. I didn’t care about my friends that summer, I wanted to be with him. And so I was, as often as possible. We spent all day swimming, then went in for some ice cream and lunch. We would do handstands in the pool, he would teach me how to dive through a tube (which was the most hilariously incredible thing. He was bigger than the hole in the tube, yet somehow he still managed to squeeze through) and we’d play a game we shared between the two of us, called Airplanes. Because we spent so much time together that summer, we didn’t always have something to say- so to pass the time together we floated in the pool and kept count of who could spot the most airplanes first. To this day, every now and then I look up and see an airplane in the sky and I think of him and know he’s with me. All though he totally has the advantage now, because he can see all the airplanes from heaven that the clouds are blocking from me. 😉 I love my pepere, so so much. And I wish he could still be here with me in the physical world. But I am so beyond positive that he is still with me, spiritually. I dream of him whenever I need him, and sometimes I even just know that he’s by my side without any indication other than pure intuition. If you lose someone you love, believe that they are always with you and you’ll open yourself up to the ability to feel their presence again. I miss the activities we did together in his time here on earth, but I can’t say that I miss him. He’s still with me, and I know that. And because of that the hole in my heart is a lot smaller than it would be without that faith.

Summertime Sadness

Okay, I couldn’t have gotten any more cliche on that title, but I show no embarrassment in paying homage to Lana Del Rey. That song title, however, essentially sums up how I’m feeling now that the weather is getting warmer and I’m back home from school for a few months yet again. Every time this season rolls back around, I get the same blues I am all too familiar with. Now, yes I do have year round depression, but this is a completely different sadness; something that medication cannot alleviate. I have been experiencing this sadness every summer since I was a child, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m alone in this odd sensation. Its one thing that I am very intolerant of the heat, but the fact that the sunshine coming in through the windows bothers me is something bizarre and not frequently heard of. The days of summer that are filled with dreary rain are my favorite days; acting almost as a tiny shred of relief from the suffering I’ve endured. I’m certain that to many of you I sound absolutely crazy right now, but this is a feeling I cannot shake no matter what I do to try and get into the summer spirit. I’ll try and hang in there until autumn comes back to save me. 

Healthy Hair: A Guide to Sulfate-Free Shampoos

afterlight

Since I started learning about the chemicals in most shampoos sold in grocery stores, I’ve become very aware of the health of my hair. When I was younger, I was very frustrated with the texture of my hair. It was dry, frizzy, and brittle in my middle school and early high school years, despite every effort I made to tame it. Even when I found a shampoo that worked well with my long blonde hair, weeks passed and soon my hair was fighting against the formula that seemed to calm my mane. One year my mother bought me Wen by Chaz Dean, knowing how sick I was of using product after product. I had never heard of Wen before, and this was my first exposure to sulfate free hair care products. I became addicted. Since going sulfate free, my hair has never been happier. I can shower, allow my hair to air dry, and leave the house with my hair as is. I was never able to do this prior. The entire texture of my hair has changed for the better, and I have seen an immense change in the amount of splits ends in my hair. In fact, I went 2 years without a trim and was not seeing any split ends – even after straightening my hair about once or twice a week! I have been maintaining my hair’s health since discovering Wen by going as chemical free as possible when it comes to hair products. I’ve even avoided chemical hair dyes by dying my hair red with henna (a possible topic for a future post, as this fact always seems to intrigue people I share it with).

Going sulfate-free is also easier than you might think. While you might not find these products at your local grocery store, places like CVS, Rite-Aid, Wal-Mart, or Sally’s Beauty Supply (of course) will offer you some hair-healthy choices. Wen by Chaz Dean is rather pricey, but there are several “knock-off” versions of Chaz Dean’s cleansing conditioner. Two great and inexpensive alternatives are the “One” cleansing conditioner, which can be found at Sally’s, and the Renpure cleansing conditioner, which I have seen offered at my local Rite-Aid. (Renpure also offers an entire sulfate-free AND gluten-free line of products including hair sprays and mousses!) Both bottles of cleansing conditioner, the same size as Wen, cost 10 dollars or slightly less, in comparison to Wen’s 40+ dollars. If you’re unfamiliar with the term cleansing conditioner, it is exactly what it implies. It is a conditioner which has the ability to also cleanse the hair and scalp like a shampoo, only being much more gentle. Therefore, you do not need to purchase a separate bottle of shampoo and conditioner if you go with this option. I personally have found that cleansing conditioners do a much better job keeping my hair smooth and healthy.

There are a great variety of separate shampoos and conditioners which are inexpensive as well. Simply U shampoo is a brand sold by Wal-Mart, which I’ve actually been using the past few weeks. I purchased it for around 5 dollars. Another great brand I’ve experimented with was Naked Naturals, which I found for around 2 dollars a piece for both the shampoo and conditioner at my local Ocean State Job Lot. I have tried both of these brands in comparison to the more expensive Organix brand shampoos, and to be honest the cheaper ones worked better in my book. Higher price does not imply higher value.

For more information on sulfate-free shampoos, check out the internet- there is a LOT of information out there regarding how to make the change and all the science behind shampoo ingredients. Break away from your usual old shampoo and get a little adventurous, it really is worth it! I wish you and your hair a Happy New Year!

2013

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Me digging at the Lord Ashley Site in Charleston, SC

2013 has been quite the year for me, in both negative and positive ways. While it hasn’t been the easiest on me mentally, I am ending the year with a happy outlook on how things turned out the last 12 months. I had high hopes for my 20th year, and it actually exceeded all expectations. Spiritually, I grew a great deal. It was at the very beginning of 2013 that I first channeled my spirit guide during yoga class, and that was something incredible that I never expected to be able to accomplish. My biggest accomplishment of 2013, however, was undoubtedly my life changing summer archaeological field school in Charleston, South Carolina. While I was in South Carolina I fell completely in love with Charleston, as well as the College of Charleston (which has a graduate program in my major). I decided, during my month in the city, that I would return after college to receive my masters and put down my roots for a future there. The most incredible thing that I received during my stay was the love I found for archaeology during the excavation. Prior to field school I had no interest in archaeology, but my intuition, or a push from my spirit guides, convinced me to sign up for the program. At this time I was very miserable in my field of study and had no idea what I was going to do, in terms of a career, for the future. Since leaving Charleston, I have been absolutely sure that archaeology is where I belong, and I haven’t been happier. That one month changed everything for me.

I have had very rough times this year, and I would say I reached one of my lowest and scariest points pretty recently, but these ups and downs are all a part of the ride. Looking back on the year, I reached the greatest high point of my life (thus far) in the summer of 2013. I am not sad, however, to see the year go because the future has been somewhat lit by these experiences- and I can see there are more great experiences to come.

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Anonymous

“A lot of the conflict you have in your life exists simply because you’re not living in alignment; you’re not be being true to yourself.”

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I genuinely don’t like having to hide my blog from people who know me. In a way, it is something I’m proud of so I should have no resistance to sharing it, yet for some reason I do. I have already gone back and deleted posts that I wasn’t ready to share with everyone. I never made this blog to be something where I could get out what I was hiding with the awareness that I was faceless on the internet. This wasn’t intended to be an online journal. I have a real one for that purpose. I think ultimately, I have posted personal things here thinking it was okay at the time to share them out loud, but for several reasons my opinion has changed. I am not in the same place anymore, and things are different now than they used to be. I feel as though my initial concern in hesitating to share my blog with people I know was that I felt that I shouldn’t be hiding these parts of myself, and by deleting posts I was only proving that I was ashamed of who I am. I think now, however, I can understand that some things are, and overtime can become, personal no matter what and do not need to be broadcast to the people they do or do not know.

Am I going to share this blog now? Its more than likely that I won’t, or at least not immediately. I am not okay with doing that just yet because this isn’t a decision I want to make spur of the moment. I am considering it, but I want to be sure this won’t make me feel as though I need to start to change my blog’s content and voice. I want this blog to be a real representation of who I am; where I may be filtered, but never hidden.

In Retrospect

Looking back on your life always gives you insight on the things you were unable to see, even though they were right in front of you at the time. Looking back on my last post, (which has since been deleted) I was so hopeful and- to be frank- very naive. I feel sorry for that version of myself, the version who thought I had something meaningful with somebody who was really using me and manipulating me. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone to be in a toxic relationship, and how hard it would be to accept that it was a problem and remove yourself from that situation. Hell, I was FORCED out of the situation and I still couldn’t let go. So I have respect for people who get out of abusive relationships and things of the like, more so than I did before. This is helping me grow, I suppose. And while it does hurt, I don’t regret that it happened. I have learned so much (and am continuing to) that the pain has actually been worth it.

Spiritual Struggles

I am at a crossroads, and I’ve been stuck here since early 2013. I grew up in a family with a very lax view on religion. I was baptized and enrolled in my local Sunday school, but the commitment ended there. We were not regular church-goers and, though I prayed every night and believed strongly in God, we never discussed religion much as a family. 8th grade came around, however, and something changed. For reasons unknown I became, what one could call, obsessed with Catholicism. From that point on I was the biggest advocate for the religion and I was known for my strict beliefs. Abortion, premarital sex, drinking, drugs, and things of the likes were disgusting to me. Every Sunday you could find me in the pews beside my mother, ready to hear The Lord’s word that week. When I became a senior in high school, I began volunteering as a teacher at my church, for the 7th and 8th grade religious education classes. “Are you doing this for community service hours?” students would often ask. I was always greeted with disbelief when I admitted I chose to volunteer for fun. Soon I applied and enrolled in a Catholic college, ready to attend service as frequently as possible.

When I came to college, however, I soon slipped into a depression, and I fell away from my faith for a time being. After several months of darkness, I thought that if anything could help me shake this, it would only be God. And so, I attended my first campus church service. My first, and my last. I found myself displeased with the priest. He mentioned that he would be using swears at times in order to communicate to us in the way we communicate with one another. He even told us how important it was to balance our social lives, work, education, and sex lives while still maintaining religion in the balance. I was appalled. Never should a Catholic priest make a “sex life” seem appropriate, let alone normal, to a group of unmarried college students. I left and never returned.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes I was crazy. I don’t think this way anymore, but I was not kidding when I called myself a “strict Catholic.”

Since then I have taken a world religions class, and my eyes have been opened to Buddhism. I strongly believe in many aspects of the Buddhist faith, and this has caused me great confusion. I am 100% positive that God is real, but also that the Dalai Lama is truly the reincarnation of the bodhisattva. My Catholic faith has been such a huge part of my life that I can’t and don’t want to let it go, but at the same time I don’t feel Catholic anymore. Yet there is no religion that suits me. I can’t be Buddhist and believe in God, it’s contradictory.

For the time being I’ve been focusing on my spirituality, being in touch with my spirit guides and connecting with my higher self, but maintaining a relationship with God. I suppose I don’t need to fit into any specific religion, but it would help to know if there were others out there with the same beliefs as myself.

In my greatest fantasy, I’m given a year off to find myself and my spirituality, but for now I’ll try and balance it with my work, schooling, social life, and sex life. 😉

Ponderings of an Atypical College Student

On this Thirsty Thursday I lay on my couch blogging; my sobriety likely one of few remaining on campus this hour.  Though I do participate in recreational drinking most (okay, basically all) weekends, I’m not one to drink on a school night…usually anyway. I’m not here to put the impression in your mind that I’m an angel, because I think you should have a fair image of me… And that would be the most untrue thing you could think of me. I’ve smoked weed, and sometimes I still do. I’ve abused prescription drugs as well (my own, if that somehow makes it any better?) so I have done my fair share of stupid things. I can’t, however, shake this constant nagging feeling that I’m better than all of these poor decisions I make. Yes, I have fun while I’m under the influence. It has allowed me to express myself freely and be fearless. It has brought me close to new people and given me experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. But it has also caused me a great deal of pain, regret, and embarrassment. I feel as though the good simply does not outweigh the bad. Sure I’ve created connections with people drunk that I may not have made sober, but isn’t a connection you made with someone, through the fear, anxiety, and awkwardness, all the more valuable? Truth be told, on a Friday night I’d rather go for a walk, look at the stars, and talk about anything and everything with someone I enjoy being around. I don’t want to get wasted, go to a party, and have meaningless sex I’ll regret the next day (If I even remember it, that is.) I want something more out of life, something that actually has value to me.

And yet every weekend you’ll find a drink in my hand. Granted I am not a party girl, I typically stay in and play drinking games with my roommates, but you’d be surprised how many things can still go wrong and end in regret from that scenario.

As a college student I might be alone in these thoughts, but I’m okay with that; really okay. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I want to live a fulfilling life for myself and I know that substance abuse is not going to bring about that fulfillment. Though an immediate change may not come about, these thoughts, and perhaps the finding of some friends with similar values and thoughts, will soon bring me to the path I want to be on in this life.

Slipping Through My Fingers

Pardon the Abba reference in the title, I couldn’t help myself.

While the saying may go “you don’t really know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” I have found myself experiencing the very opposite problem. I have become so acutely aware of my blessings that I suffer from fear of losing them every second that I should be enjoying them. At several points throughout the day I will reflect on how lucky I am to enjoy college so much, live with such incredible friends, and feel so much fulfillment from my academics. And then, almost immediately, the fear sinks in. I remember that college is finite and the hands on the clock move much quicker than I desire.  The fear usually occupies more of my time than the joy does, and thus I spend the majority of my time frightened and sad because of how lovely my life is. I am well aware that this is extremely silly (to be polite to myself) but I simply cannot stop this from happening. I need to learn how to live in the moment and forget that all good things must come to a close.

on a side note: The future may hold something even better than what I’m experiencing now. Think positive, Shannon.

Mixed Emotions; A Trivial Deliberation

I’ve been pondering a particular thought in every spare moment my mind has to wander lately. I cannot, for the life of me, seem to find the logical, moral, reasonable way to deal with this situation I’ve been preoccupied with. Of course, my thoughts are all merely wishful thinking, and what I spend my days questioning is complete fiction. I should only be so lucky as to have this problem arise in my life. Yet, in case one day I find myself in that tough situation; I pose the question for you. When you find yourself to be in love with someone, someone who is already happily committed to someone else, are you obligated to remain single? Surely it’s a “good idea” to date other people (casually, I mean) in order to get your mind off of that person you’ll never end up with? Yet what about the feelings of the person you’re dating? Do you go into the situation being explicit by saying “here’s the deal…” and laying it all out on the table? But wouldn’t that just send them running anyway? Maybe I only speak for myself when I say I’d never date a guy who told me flat out he was in love with another girl. Unless I liked them enough, I suppose.

But even still, I mean, what if the guy I’m  considering dating is really the love of my life and I just don’t see it because I’m so caught up in this person I don’t even know well enough to assess?

My thoughts continue to go around in circles and I never come to a solid conclusion in this mental debate. I can see the reasoning behind both sides of the argument and it is genuinely driving me crazy. Theoretical situations should not be this frustrating.

I hope someone; somewhere has a little bit of insight on this subject that they can send my way. And now I pray, as you all should as well, that this never happens to me. I rescind the former statement that made this out to seem “lucky.” For heaven’s sake, I would rather be single for life.