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Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Hello readers! Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. Life has thrown a lot my way, and I’m working to adjust accordingly. Hopefully in a month or so, I’ll be posting regularly again. I’ve got ideas, just need to get them down on the paper. 🙂

This month, I decided to participate in the Penprints Flash Fiction Dash. It’s a challenge where you receive either a sentence or picture prompt and write a story from it that’s 1000 words or less. I had a lot of fun working on this, and thought I’d share it with you all since it has to do with relationships. (And because I haven’t posted in a while… oops.) Picture prompt and story below. Please read and enjoy!

 

The Decision - picture prompt - Penprints Flash Fiction Dash

 

The Decision

Silver rails and wood ties, as far as the eye could see. She looked to the east, then the west. Would the train come? Where would it take her?

Snow lay deep, interrupted only by bare trees and dead brush.

Long, dark hair fell over her shoulder and tickled her cheek, rustled by the winter breeze. The abandoned bridge lay above her, supported on stacked, rough-hewn blocks of stone. Frozen rivulets of water shone in the sky’s dim white light. Guard rails perched atop the black road kept phantom cars from plunging onto the tracks below.

Snow fingers crawled toward her boots over the gravel under the bridge. The silver rail she stood on could have frozen to her feet through thin boot soles.

She looked east. So many choices, so many destinations.

She must choose.

The wind whispered in her ear.

Tell me which way to go.

A single word resounded in her mind, as if the wind held her answer.

Alone.

Faux fur tickled bare thighs and calves. She bunched the sleeves of her hoodie in her fists, hiding fingerless gloves.

No one had come here with her. Few would wish to. This place held nothing for them.

And everything for her. So many thoughts and decisions she’d made here.

On her own.

The wind died. The snow’s stretching fingers rested among rocks strewn between railroad ties and hair settled on her shoulders. She licked dry lips.

Moisture froze.

How would she decide?

The world’s answer wouldn’t match the wind’s. Whom did she trust with this?

Only herself.

No one else would dare to understand. They’d only push her closer to the world’s answer.

She’d only ever had herself, really. Would that continue the rest of her life?

And if it did? She’d lived almost thirty years of life on her own. A few close friends had scattered to the winds, still there but harder to reach out to in times of need.

So she must turn to herself. As she’d always done before those friends stole into her life and heart.

She closed her eyes, breathing in winter’s sharp, bitter air.

Thank goodness she hadn’t become bitter.

Much lay in her past, all that she’d come to terms with. She’d accepted every piece of it. Even her own guilt.

Yet here she stood, indecisive. Which path to take?

The wind whispered again. To her.

Alone.

Perhaps the wind knew best.

She’d done many things wrong. Broken friendships lay scattered behind her like rocks, fragments of those few she’d hurt and alienated.

If she avoided going deeper than friendship, what would that make of her life?

It would give her everything she’d ever wanted, hoped for.

She’d only ever wanted a friend. Close friends, both guys and girls.

And now?

The world pushed toward dating, engagement, marriage. She grew older every day, and the world reminded her at each turn.

But she had remained careful, selective. If she chose not to follow the world, she could gain everything she’d ever wanted.

Would others understand?

No.

As the world saw it, one couldn’t be happy without a marriage, a family.

And yet she was. She’d been happy for years on her own, focusing on friendships. Friendships she still held on to, the kind that lasted.

And when she’d delved deeper than that? Disaster. And lost another friend.

Not again.

Only once had it been the right decision to step past friendship into something deeper. In the end, she’d lost a friend, a good and close one. But that had made sense, it had been right. She’d learned from it, more than if it had never happened.

This last foray into dating? Her own foolishness. And her fault they no longer spoke.

Perhaps they’d never speak again.

She must learn to rely on herself first, her own voice of reason. Not her emotions, so easily influenced by those around her.

Alone.

Yes, that’s the train she must take. She must defy the world’s views. Remain on her own, forming close, lasting friendships.

That’s all she’d ever wanted.

Now, she must live up to that decision.

She turned west and stepped from rail tie to rail tie, standing straighter than she had in days. The wind flowed around her, as if commending her choice.

Alone: how she was meant to live.

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You sit down with and old friend you haven’t seen in years. As the two of you laugh, talk, and catch up on your lives, your friend says something you never expected them to. You learn something about them that changes your view of who they are, and you now perceive them differently. When the two of you part, memories of times with this friend flood your mind. Though now they feel different, based on this new information. You wonder if that’s a good thing or not.

Memories can be “tainted” by things you learn from friends. “Taint” in this case can be either good or bad.  For instance, you could come to get to know a friend better by learning something positive that’s happened to them recently that’s changed them. When you look back on the memories, the new knowledge gives you greater understanding of who they are in hindsight, and the great times become even better. You come to care for them more through your new understanding of the memories. Or, you can learn that someone isn’t who you thought they were, that they’ve done things you don’t agree with and you can’t come to reconcile that with who you previously perceived them to be. Thus, you search through the memories, now seeing the signs and wondering why you hadn’t seen this coming.

The thing is, there will always be times that we learn something about someone close to us that seems to taint the memories in a bad way. Every one of us has times in our lives we regret, and we’re scared to tell those we care about. Because we know that when we tell them, it’s going to change how they view us. But that doesn’t mean that the relationship will end.

We all have a choice in each of our relationships. We choose to continue pursuing a connection with that person or not. Often, this isn’t a conscious choice we make, but rather a choice made in the subconscious. However, when we learn something that drastically changes our perception of someone close to us, that choice is thrust into the conscious mind. We must decide whether or not to keep that relationship alive.

One thing we always have to keep in mind is that love is a choice. It’s more than a feeling. It’s a commitment to that person, regardless of whether they’re family, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, fiance, or husband/wife. There will always be new things to learn about the people close to you, and they won’t always be good things. What keeps a relationship alive is continued commitment to one another by making the, sometimes very difficult, choice to continue to love them despite their flaws.

After all, they’ve made the choice to stick with us, right?

 

I know there is so much more that could be said on this topic, and that there are many different views and opinions out there. How do you see this choice working in your life?

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Something’s happened. Something big, and you have to talk to someone about it. You have to make a decision. You need advice, but of a specific kind. You scroll through a list of names in your mind, deciding. Which of your friends would be best to talk to about this particular issue? Who will help most in this situation?

These are questions we ask ourselves all the time, whether or not we’re conscious of it. When we’re dealing with something big, we eventually need to talk options over with a friend. We can internalize a lot of the struggle, but at some point we need an outside opinion. We want to be sure we’re getting the best and most level-headed opinion we can, so we’re careful about who we choose to talk with about it.

This is not a bad thing. You have a unique relationship with each and every person you know, and each one of those people will have a different perspective on whatever situation you need help with. As you get to know someone, you learn what areas of life they have great insight on, and from there you know what kinds of situations they’d be able to help you the most with. Sometimes, though, we go to the person we know the best, or the one we’ve known longer. When we’re dealing with a situation that’s important to us, we go to the people we trust the most because we’re more comfortable with them. We’re able to express ourselves better. We know we don’t have to hold back. And we know that those people will take the matter seriously and give us the best advice they can.

I must offer a disclaimer here, though. Just because we choose one friend to go to over another doesn’t mean that we don’t trust that other friend. And the same goes if one of our friends goes to someone else over us. We have to remember that there are lots of factors that go into a decision like that. We shouldn’t be hurt that they didn’t come to us, because there were reasons for that, and there’s no way for us to know what those were. Instead, we should be happy that our friend got good advice on the situation, whoever that advice ended up coming from.

Every relationship is different and is built on a different foundation. Every relationship will have a different structure and will include different things. And that’s the beauty of unique relationships.

 

Do you have certain friends you ask for advice over others? Share your thoughts or story in the comments!

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Fun and crazy expressions are always good for a laugh. As a reader, I’m very expressive, which can be entertaining for those in the room with me. But when it comes to personal struggles, I’m not very expressive at all. There are so many different expressions out there, and yet only a few make us worry. As a society that places a lot of value on outward appearance, we learn what faces to show to the world and which ones to keep hidden until we’re alone. We show these faces in many ways: through expressions, words, and body language.

But it’s often the expressions we never show, the words we never use, and the tiniest hints from our body language that show others what we’re truly feeling. And if we’re lucky, we’ll have those friends that we can show those faces. We’ll have friends who will pick up on the unspoken words and body language. We all want that kind of friend, because then we can share with them what we’re truly feeling. We don’t have to keep silent.

Yet there’s so much of the time we don’t know what’s really going on in a friend’s life until they decide to open up to us.

Recently I was chatting with a close friend via the Internet and I was told of some deep, internal struggles in my friend’s heart. I was slightly surprised, because while we’ve often had serious conversations, the bulk of our interaction involves banter and light-hearted conversation. But this friend and I also happen to be in the same group chat, and my friend’s happy and excited responses to the group contrasted drastically to our one-on-one conversation. Seeing both ends of the spectrum at the same time like that really hit me. It made me think of the many faces we each hold, and how we pull out the “correct” face for the situation.

How many of us hide what we’re truly feeling from the majority of the world–including those who care about us? Especially via the Internet, it’s so easy to hide what we’re truly feeling. It’s simple to type a happy sentence, even if we’re falling apart inside. I’ve done that, too. I still do.

Yet when we do express our true feelings and things we’re struggling with, we apologize for it, for being a burden. But our friends should never feel that they’re inconveniencing us by telling us these kinds of things. The only way for us to get through life is to help each other out. We must help carry each others’ burdens. If we confide in someone, then we must also be willing to let them confide in us.

 

We can hide what we’re going through, but only for so long. We must learn to be unapologetic in sharing with the people who want to know. In order to survive, we all need this.

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I pause at the fringe, looking ahead to the brown and green. Phone slides into the pocket of my bag, and I’m ready to go. I hoist the bag on my shoulder and step into the wood proper. The pavement falls away behind me, and with every step, so do the sounds of civilization. Instead of the slight crunch of loose stones on the pavement, I hear the scrape of dirt, the crackle of dry leaves, and the snap of twigs with every step. Birdsong and the slight buzz of many insects fall on my ears as the whine of cars along a busy road and the chatter from crowds of people fall away. A breeze through the trees adds the shush of leaves brushing against one another and the creak of tall boughs. Plops and scurrying feet in the underbrush attest to squirrels and other critters. And I settle into myself, allowing my thoughts to fill the quiet space in front of me. Here, in this space, I reclaim who I am.

 

We’ve talked a lot about relationships, but so far we’ve talked about relationships with other people. But one of the most important relationships you will ever have is the relationship you have with yourself. This relationship dictates how you view and interact with the world, and it directs your part in relationships with others. But, like all relationships, it takes time to develop a good relationship with yourself. You have to take time to spend with yourself.

When you spend quality time with other people and work to build those relationships, you don’t do so by sitting on your device while in the room with the other person. In the same way, you need to put down the devices and disconnect from the world of social media in order to truly develop a relationship with yourself. From personal experience, I recommend getting out of the house, away from civilization and the temptation to check social media and use those devices.

For me, nature is a great place to relax. The calm and stillness fills me up and I’m able to tap into that inner part of me that I often lose when I’m surrounded by the noise and bustle of everyday life. The woods are my haven when I need to get away and rediscover myself. But you don’t need to go to the woods as I do. Find the place in nature that works best for you–you could go to a deserted stretch of beach, a canyon, a valley, a plain. Go wherever works for you, but make sure to unplug from the Internet and your devices. After all, when you don’t have all of that information flowing into you, you’re able to discover what you already have inside.

You can discover yourself.

 

What’s your preferred place for getting away and rediscovering yourself? Share in the comments below!

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Flight is one of those technological feats that still amazes me. I don’t get to fly often, but when I do I love to look out the window and watch the world below shrink and change. The earth’s topography becomes apparent and the clouds are a new kind of sea. As you fly high above the earth and among the clouds, it can seem that you’re hardly moving although you’re travelling at much faster speeds than the toy cars below.

Relationships can be similar to a flight spent watching out the window. There will be times when it seems as though a relationship has stalled, isn’t moving forward, or deepening as quickly as we’d expect. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but deep relationships are not instantaneous. They’re built over time. Sometimes they deepen quicker than we realize, and other times we realize just how quickly they’re deepening. It depends solely on the two people in the relationship and your perception of it.

On a flight, looking out a window can reveal three degrees of thickness within the clouds–the thin, nearly-transparent layer that allows glimpses of the earth below; the smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white; and the completely opaque, fluffy peaks of hand-whipped cream. We all have these three degrees of thickness within us, whether as clouds or walls or something else. The degrees will vary from person to person, as will how careful we are about which layers of ourselves we allow others to see.

The thin, nearly-transparent layer of clouds are the parts of who you are that you show right away. It’s usually not a lot, but it gives those you’re meeting for the first time or don’t know well that first taste of your personality. They’re hints of that true person deep inside you. Through these layers, glimpses of the roots of who you are can be seen, though never clearly. The roots of who we are permeate our lives, and others are able to catch glimpses of that, like glimpsing the earth through the clouds on a flight.

The smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white clouds usually sit lower in the sky. When we start to trust someone, we allow them to see this layer of ourselves. At this point, we are starting to trust that new friend with who we are, beginning to open up to them. It’s just enough of a taste that we can make a better decision on who to pull closer and who to keep at an arm’s length. At this point, we learn who is accepting of who we are and who might be skeptical or likely to use those things against us.

The opaque, fluffy peaks are the highest and thickest walls we build. We use these walls to keep most people from glimpsing who we truly are, keeping them at bay because we don’t know for sure we can trust them. We all have layers upon layers of these walls, building up as the peaks of the fluffy clouds do. One cluster of these walls we use to hide our deepest secrets, keeping them tucked away. Only a very select, privileged few get to see beyond these walls, to the heart of our fears.

Yet like a flight, like watching those clouds drift slowly by, relationships take time to develop and deepen. We must continue through regardless of the pace it seems things are going, because things we can’t see are always happening under the surface. We must take the time to get to know another person. The patience and time spent will be rewarded when you finally see the true person behind the mask. But relationships are not always smooth. They will hit some turbulence. You must expect both that and a little trouble throughout the flight, although these should not be long-winded. If you endure, it is truly all worth it in the end.

 

Yes, the world may tilt out of shape, may become first closer and then farther away or even disappear altogether, but beneath the trouble and those layers of clouds is something truly beautiful to behold and explore.

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I’m one of those people on Facebook who loves to try the different quizzes and “What’s YOUR (fill in the blank)?” apps so many share. It’s not because I take any stock in them; they only analyze my Facebook profile. Besides, my social media presence is only a portion of who I am, but I’m curious to see how they “profile” me. It gives me a chance to see how I’m portraying myself on social media and whether or not I’m being true to who I really am.

Confession: I don’t like to share a lot about myself, especially on social media. I’m one of those people you have to get to know pretty well before I share anything of real substance about myself.

So this is a little hard. Yet I’ve come to understand that maybe I need to be more active and honest on social media, and especially with my readers here. I’ve mentioned before that relationships being real and true is important to me, but I’ve never truly qualified that. I’ve never been completely honest with you guys about why relationships, especially true friendships, matter to me so much.

I’ve shared a few things about my life with you all in previous posts, but those things don’t even come close to the heart of things. They’re not the reason I started this blog or why relationships are such a passion of mine. Those instances aren’t the reason I find myself always writing about a relationship when I draft a story, or when I dream. But sharing that real reason with you all requires me to be vulnerable on the Internet, something that I’ve been very wary of. And I have a hard enough time doing that with people in real life (just ask some of my closest friends). I once had a friend say to me, after two years of knowing her, that she felt she didn’t really know me. Not until I shared my story with her.

My usual criteria for sharing things like my past and struggles is that I have to know someone personally, and for longer than a few days. I want to be able to see that someone portraying themselves as a friend is really telling me the truth, that they’ll be there no matter what happens and no matter what they might learn about me. It can be hard to find those people, especially if we spend our time with them hiding behind those pesky walls we’ve built. But we all do it, if only to protect ourselves.

That’s what I thought I was doing. Protecting myself. But I just ended up isolating myself and exacerbating my problem. What I didn’t want to happen–being alone–I facilitated.

So, I’m going to take a deep breath and hit “Publish” after writing a part of my past it took me two years to share with my closest friends now. And there are friends I have that don’t know this, because I never shared it, for whatever reason. But…. here goes.

 

As a kid, I had no trouble making friends. Like most five-year-olds, I was able to easily connect with my peers. But that didn’t always stick. Throughout elementary school (Kindergarten-sixth grade) I made new friends every new school year. There was never just one reason I always had to make new friends, though a lot of the time friends I made one year moved before the next. That happened two or three times. Yet other times I returned from the summer holidays and either the friends I had before didn’t want to spend time with me anymore or we didn’t connect like we used to.

I had only one long-time friend throughout elementary, a kid the same age as me who lived down the street. We didn’t play together at school, but we would spend time together whenever school was out. We enjoyed listening to music, watching movies, and finding things to do outside. There were often times I briefly questioned things he said or did, but I always brushed them off. They didn’t mean much to me, young as I was. And he was a friend I’d had for a while.

As a kid, reading was my favorite hobby and I did a lot of it. Fiction was my favorite, and I eventually discovered Harry Potter. I devoured books, enjoying the adventures I could experience along with the characters. And to this day Harry Potter is still my favorite series of all time. I don’t think any story could ever truly replace it as the best, though there are plenty of other wonderful stories in the world.

Things at school were often the same from year to year: finding new friends, spending the year playing with them and enjoying having friends, playing after school with the kid down the street. Every year, the same things. I made new friends every single school year except one year, and even that year wasn’t devoid of its changes and times that would change my life forever.

That year, I learned that I could trust no one.

It was like any other day, the sometime during my sixth grade year. The only year I would keep the same school friends. But that day was the same as always, going to hang out with the kid down the street (maybe without my parents permission, but I wasn’t a perfect child). First he wanted to show me the end of Titanic for some reason, and we went into his room. He closed the door, but that was normal. We only watched the end, though I’d never seen the whole movie. He kinda told me what happened, but said the end was the best. So we watched. Then we talked for a bit, though I don’t remember what it was about.

Which led, in turn, to the thing that changed my life forever. I can picture the room exactly as it was in those few minutes, those minutes I regret more than almost anything else in my life. I won’t give details of those minutes. But this kid basically tried to get me to have sex with him. And I almost let him. That’s what kills me the most, looking back. That and not noticing the signs earlier, the signs that he wasn’t a good friend to have.

So I left. I didn’t go back to his house, afraid of the same thing happening. But I didn’t completely stop talking to him either. And when he had an illness issue, I felt guilty for worrying about him.

But that wasn’t the worst part about the whole situation. The reason I’m not vulnerable with people is because I have been before, and was completely blown off. I tried telling my school friends what happened the next day or a couple days later or something, I can’t remember exactly. What I do remember is where I was sitting on the school playground, the hardness of the packed dirt underneath the green tree I sat under, telling them. I also remember clearly their responses and questions. And the response that confused me the most and plagued me long after, building its own wall around my heart: Everything’s fine. Nothing happened, so there’s nothing to worry about. Let’s go play.

And they walked away.

Maybe it’s not an exact quote but I don’t remember the exact words. But that’s what was said to me, and that’s what cropped up in my mind every time I thought about being vulnerable. I’ve always been afraid that sharing everything about myself with anyone, even if that’s only things with my past, will cause them to walk away. Then I lose friends, because my past is too horrible for them to be friends with me.

We moved halfway across the country after that year, my parents knowing nothing. We moved to be closer to family, in a better environment, part of a better school system. We got where we are now in October of my seventh grade year, me coming into the year after it had already started. I wanted to make friends, but I was scared. And no one talked to me. Everyone already had their groups, and I wasn’t interesting to anyone once we got past the fact I’d lived in California but not near the ocean. I retreated further into myself then, building more walls, being ever more careful. I didn’t talk to my parents about it. I delved into reading with a new fervor, my only friends the characters between the pages of the books.

My middle school had something called AR points–read a book, answer a quiz, and get points that add up throughout the year. If you read enough books, you got prizes. The highest tier, with the fewest people, was a trip to a nearby bookstore for the day. Even coming into the year late, I managed to make it to this prize–with thousands of AR points. Books were my life, and I think all I did was read. It seems that way now.

 

So that’s the brunt of my early story about relationships. I’ve had such a hard time keeping friendships, and it’s taken me a long time to even know what I’m really looking for in any kind of relationship. And I’m still learning. I have some true friends I’ve made, people I really connect with on many, many levels; people I can be honest with about anything, and they’ll be there no matter what. They’ve proven that time and again.

It’s because of my story, of my struggles with finding and keeping friends, of finding the good and true friends who will always be there, that I’m so passionate about right relationships. I’ve been through public school, and I’ve seen the inside of how things work, with the cliques and groups. With the backstabbing, the regrets, the drama. With finding people you think you can trust only to find you can’t.

But I also know those real friendships, those true selfless relationships are out there. I’ve found some, and I’ll find more. But I’ve learned something else since finding these friends: before we can truly connect with another person, we need to be willing to be vulnerable. We need to either banish or push past the fears and take a risk.

Taking risks is the only way we’ll find those friends who will stick with us no matter the circumstances, the friends who will be there trying to help even if our own habits become self-destructive.

Those are the relationships the world needs, and those are the relationships each and every one of us needs. It’s one of the basic things we look for our whole lives. But we have to confront ourselves to find that basic thing, those true friendships that stay with us our entire lives.

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This ties right into our last post about gossip. I mentioned within and at the end that if you have a problem with a friend, go to them and talk it out. Don’t bring in others or post to social media about it.

When we have a problem with a friend or someone we love, it can cause problems with the relationship. Especially if it goes unresolved. But the only way it can be resolved is by talking it out with that person.

Guys, this is hard to do. We don’t want confrontation and conflict in our lives. We want to be happy and have the best relationships there could be, right? Sure, we do. But life can’t happen without conflict and confrontation.

We will all have arguments with friends. This can have many different appearances: we disagree with something they said, we’re worried about something they’re doing, we’re worried what they’re not saying, we’re hurt because of something they did or didn’t do/say, etc. There are so many reasons for conflict between two people. But things only get worse if we bury the problem or talk to someone else about it.

To keep friends and strengthen friendships, we must reprove one another in love. This can sometimes be called “tough love,” and it is. It’s tough for one person to hear, and it’s tough for the other to say. We don’t want to hurt our friends; we want them to be happy and have fun. But the fun can’t truly happen without the conflicts and confrontations that go into having a solid relationship.

Whenever we have a problem with a friend, we need to talk to them about it. If we don’t, it will either fester inside of us, causing a division between friends, or it will be let out some other way, spreading into gossip and/or rumor, thus destroying a friendship.

Guys, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Relationships are hard. But they’re hard because they’re worth it. To have a solid relationship with someone is something that everyone wants–someone to go to, someone we know will be there when we need them. But in order to gain the trust, you have to go through the hard stuff together.

Relationships are in the world so that we can strengthen one another. We’re supposed to reprove one another, point out one another’s faults. But we’re meant to do this in love, not animosity. Not for power, satisfaction, or to cut someone else down: In LOVE. We point out one another’s faults to make each other better. We hold each other to our own values.

When we love someone, we don’t sit by and watch them suffer. We sit them down and tell them what we see, what we think the problem is. They may be mad at us for “butting in,” but we can help them just by doing that. Give them some time to think it over. They’ll eventually come back and say that you were right. Although sometimes, they’ll be too stubborn to admit it.

Yes, reproving one another in love can lead to lost friendships. I’ve been there before. But if we don’t do it, we’ll never feel we can trust one another, and there will be a divide that we feel growing larger every day. We have relationships to help one another through life. If we don’t reprove one another in love, we’re not fulfilling that role.

But the only way to reprove one another in love is to always, ALWAYS go to the person it centers around first. If they won’t listen, maybe others see it too. If a friend won’t change their ways, that’s when you get a couple more to help you talk to them. After that, there’s not much more any of you can do to help them.

The hardest part about reproving one another in love is that the person you’re reproving has to want to listen. They have to want to change what you’ve pointed out. You can’t force that on them, and neither can anyone else. Yes, you may lose a friend. But you may also form a stronger trust in that relationship because you were honest and they were willing to listen, talk it out, and change if need be.

Don’t put others down. Reprove them in love. Strengthen them. And let them strengthen you.

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I’ve fairly recently watched a documentary on Netflix — “A Girl Like Her”. If you haven’t watched it, do. It’s a testament to a lot of the problems among teens and pre-teens in the world today. And I found it powerful.

 

Everyone reacts to situations differently. And everyone deals with different situations. But there are ultimately, from what I’ve observed, two ways of personally dealing with any given situation — internalizing and externalizing.

Internalizers encounter problems by pulling into themselves — especially when it’s something they don’t want to make a big deal of (for any reason). They don’t like to talk about it. Externalizers recognize the problem, but they tell others about it in some way — usually in no plain terms relating to the issue. They put it out into the world through their tone, their words, their actions–some way.

The documentary I mentioned above is a great example of this. It follows Jessica and Avery — two girls who go to the same high school and who used to be friends. But then Jessica attempts suicide and is left in a coma. The film crew are already at the school for another reason, but pick up on this thread of how and why a girl at such a renowned high school, that has just won an award for its greatness, would attempt suicide. Avery, the popular girl of the sophomores, agrees to show the world what it is to be popular–and the pressures that go with it. A hidden camera reveals much of the happenings between Avery and Jessica, and lent much to the impact the movie had on me.

Be forewarned, there are SPOILERS ahead if you’ve not seen the documentary. I recommend that you go and watch it before reading, as I do not want to take away from the messages by analyzing parts of the movie and personalities.

This documentary is ultimately about bullying as it is today. Because the documentary is my example, that’s the context I’ve used in this post. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many more ways internalizing/externalizing can manifest. This is one context, as observed by me. However, this can be a common manifestation among teens and pre-teens in our world today — it’s an important aspect to helping our children grow up healthy and feeling loved.

Jessica and Avery. Of the two, Jessica is the internalizer. She pulled the problems she faced into herself, keeping quiet about what was happening to her. She didn’t even want to talk about it with her best friend who knew what was going on. And because this is how she processed the problem, Avery’s words started to eat at her. Jessica started to believe what Avery said. That’s part of the reason she attempted suicide–she believed Avery. Another part of the reason was because she felt trapped–“It’s never going to stop,” she said so many times. She couldn’t see how it could get any better; she only saw it getting worse. And because she’s an internalizer, she didn’t tell anyone how she was really feeling, and there was no one to encourage her and combat what Avery said.

There are probably more factors involved–I can’t pretend to know everything about Jessica. I’m not her. And I’m not saying that what happened was Jessica’s fault, because it wasn’t. When you feel as trapped as it seemed Jessica felt, you truly believe there’s no way out and that no one will understand–and you’re afraid to tell someone, for fear that they’ll confirm your fears.

Avery is the externalizer. In a sense, she recognizes the problems she’s facing internally. I say “in a sense” because I’m not sure Avery really thought about them and recognized that they were problems–but a deeper part of her did. Though the problems were internal, Avery’s reactions were external, and they weren’t always good. Avery dealt with lots of pressure from home–pressure to be perfect, to be as her controlling mother wanted. Avery didn’t want her mother controlling her life, so she tried to control where she could–at school. I got the sense that she felt invisible at home, so she did what she could to get the attention she so craved at school, no matter if it was good or bad attention.

Avery’s external expression of her hurt was by bullying Jessica–controlling someone else’s life and getting the attention of the school, even though it was negative attention. Everyone knew Avery’s name, and that’s what she wanted. But Jessica attempting suicide isn’t entirely Avery’s fault either.

Both of these girls are very, very hurt. Though they expressed the hurt differently, you can see it in both of them. They had different hurts from different situations as well. A line stuck out to me from the movie, from a parent at a meeting with the school board: “Hurt people are the ones who hurt people.” It’s something we all need to remember. Why did Avery hurt Jessica? Because she was hurting, though she tried to hide it behind her actions. Avery took her hurt out on others, those outside of herself–externalizing. Jessica took her hurt out on herself, listening to the voices in her head that repeated what Avery told her so often–internalizing.

There is so much more to be said on this documentary, so many things that I saw through it. We will continue to talk about internalizing and externalizing, and other issues I noticed from the documentary that are a huge part of our world today. There are so many hurt people out there, but for the sake of time we will leave this here for now.

Next time, we’re going to look at judging others–whether we think we do or not.

And remember–everyone’s hurt by something in some way. Everybody’s been through so much in their lifetimes, no matter how young or old. These two girls are sophomores–and already there’s so much hurt seen here.

 

What do you think? Are you an internalizer or an externalizer?

Me? I’m an internalizer, and always have been. I was able to connect with both of these girls through different things–I may call Avery a bully, but until I know her, I can’t begin to understand what she’s going through. I’ve learned much. What have you learned?

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Stories, when told well, are one of the most powerful forces in our world. They inspire us. They can help us discover ourselves, help shape who we become. And they can help us rediscover parts of ourselves, too. Even when we don’t know we’ve lost ourselves.

Here’s an illustration from my own experience: with a Harry Potter school event approaching, a friend mentions re-reading the series. I think it’s a great idea and decide to as well–I haven’t read them in years. Spring break is only a couple of weeks away, so I should have plenty of time. I borrow book 1 and begin reading. Then a week before spring break, my boyfriend and I break up–and we’d been talking of marriage in the future. As I continue reading the series, I’m readjusting my lifestyle and thinking patterns, processing our whole relationship.

Stories are one of the most powerful unseen forces on this planet. Rereading Harry Potter, I found aspects of the story I never realized were there. I’ve read those books numerous times and I still discover something new every time I read them. This time, I realized truths about relationships and found comfort in that it took Harry months to get over Cho, to look at her and feel no pain or longing. I was reaffirmed in the power and strength of friendship.

And I rediscovered my inner child, a part of me that makes me who I am and greatly influences my perspective of the world. I lost that part of myself while I was dating, even as I grew in other areas of who I am. I rediscovered my passion for reading YA novels and my reasons for wanting to write to that audience.

And another story only reaffirmed many of these things for me, especially in my writing. By now, I’d started to settle back into being single and learned again to be just friends with guys. I graduated and said goodbye to many wonderful lifetime friends, found a summer job, and moved into my own apartment.

Whisper of the Heart has one of the cheesiest endings ever, but it’s the middle of the movie that inspires me.

Mr. Nishi: Wait a minute, I’ve got something to show you (retrieves a rock from his cabinet). I think you’ll like this (hands Shizuku the rock) – take a look.

Shizuku: It looks like a rock.

Mr. Nishi: It’s a special kind of rock called geode. Hold it close to your eye and look inside – that’s right, like that. (Shines small torch beside stone, which lights up the green crystals inside)

Shizuku:(gasps) Look at that!

Mr. Nishi: Those crystals are called beryl. There are pieces of raw emerald still inside.

Shizuku: Aren’t emeralds worth a lot of money?

Mr. Nishi: Sure, but they need to be cut and polished first. When you first become an artist, you are like that rock. You’re in a raw and natural state, with hidden gems inside. You have to dig deep down and find the emeralds tucked away inside you. And that’s just the beginning. Once you have found your gems, you have to polish them. It takes a lot of hard work. Oh, and here’s the tricky part – look at the crack in the geode.

Shizuku: OK (looks inside the top crack)

Mr. Nishi: You see the big green crystal there, you could spend years polishing that, and it wouldn’t be worth much at all. The smaller crystals are much more valuable. And there may even be some deeper inside, which we can’t see, that are even more precious …

This movie helped me realize that I’ve started to uncover the gems hidden inside me. Stories and relationships can do that, guys–uncover the gems inside us.

Stories often have more power than we realize. And the most powerful ones never leave us, but live on within us. Sometimes, revisiting a story we know well is what we need most. It can help us rediscover parts of ourselves.

And maybe we’ll learn something new, too.

 

What are some of the stories that have shaped you? Have you ever rediscovered a part of yourself through rereading a novel or series? Please share your thoughts below!

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