Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Three Months/ Our First Kiss

Today marks three months since Blake's death. How does that make me feel? Confused. When I was on the phone with his mom earlier tonight I told her it seems like I haven't seen Blake in so long, but the pain makes it feel like it happened just yesterday. On one hand it's getting harder and harder to remember him exactly as he was, but on the other hand I still live with the constant memory of him. It's difficult to wrap my mind around the amount of time that's passed because time doesn't seem to follow logical rules. His death seems so long ago, yet so current.

I wanted to make a conscious effort tonight to acknowledge three months by focusing on only the happiness Blake brought me. Since it's getting easier to push past the pain and smile, I thought I'd celebrate that. I looked through pictures and I couldn't help but laugh at some of the goofy ones we took. I picked out some of my favorites and put them together in a collage.

Going through all of the fun memories and reminiscing made me think back to how it all began. A month ago I started writing a post about our first kiss, but was unable to finish it because of my preoccupation with thinking about his addiction. Tonight, I want to honor his memory (and celebrate the progress I've made) by finishing the story:

There's always that moment. Either you look back on it and realize its significance in hindsight or it's so special you know right in the instant it’s happening. For me, it was the latter. After a week of endless texting, meeting up, dates, and getting to know each other, Blake finally kissed me. Our first kiss was that moment.

The night we re-met, I spent the majority of the time with Blake and a group of his best friends. He was the one I knew the least out of all of them, but I always thought he was really handsome. When I asked if anyone needed a ride home from the bar, Blake and one friend took my offer. He fought to get the passenger seat and insisted his friend's house was closer and he should be dropped off first.  When Blake and I discussed this night later on, I explained how I thought he was setting this up so he could try to kiss me. 

But he didn't. Instead, he gave me an innocent hug and said goodnight. I shrugged it off as him not being interested in me after all. Even though he asked for my phone number, I assumed it was because we got along well and he wanted to be friends.

However, only a couple minutes after I dropped him off he sent me a text that said: "Maybe I was a wuss because I did not say it to your face, but I didn’t want to be a creep! But you are extremely beautiful! Thank u for the ride! I really do appreciate it!" From that point on we had a continuous conversation via text message and over the phone for the rest of the week. 

A few days later we went on a date to the Suns game and even went to a movie after because we didn't want the night to end. Yet when he dropped me off at my house, he gave me a tight hug, but no kiss. I was confused. Why was this guy who had been talking to me NON STOP for the past four days not trying to kiss me? Was I just making it up in my head that we were interested in each other? 

The night before I had to fly back to California, Blake invited me over to watch a movie. I was already out with high school friends from my grade, so I didn't know if I wanted to leave. One of my friends recognized Blake's name popping up on my phone throughout the night and called me out on it. What's going on between you two? I don't know?... I really didn't.

When I finally got in my car and had to make the choice to drive home or see Blake, I was conflicted. It was getting late and him asking me to come to his house after a night out seemed a little sketchy to me. I directly questioned his motives and he snapped back at me. He defended himself and said he had behaved like nothing less than a gentleman to me and it was insulting that I even thought that. He said if I remembered correctly, he had been waiting for me to come over since the very beginning of the night and it was me that was pushing it back later and later. He said he would really like me to come over, but only if that was what I wanted. He wasn't going to try to convince me, it was my choice and I needed to make it; the way I had been stringing him along was unfair.


I sat in my car in shock for a few minutes. Who was Blake Norvell anyway? I thought I had him pegged as this handsome, popular guy who knew he could get whatever he wanted. I liked the idea of hanging out with him and getting to know him, but up until that point I wasn't convinced we actually matched well. But the way he handled himself in that moment caught me off guard in a powerful way. He was totally right about everything he said. 

I was expecting him to be just like every other guy when clearly he wasn't like anyone else I've ever met. I had such a fixed notion about how he was going to treat me that I blocked myself from seeing that everything he did refuted that. In that moment I felt a mix of things. Embarrassed for the assumptions I made, but also in awe of how he called them to my attention in a way that resonated with me. No one ever had that effect on me before. I swallowed my pride, admitted I was wrong, and started driving to his house.

He had this big 3D TV that he just bought that he wanted to show me. He started talking all about it and how he set it up and a million other geeky things I didn't understand. I never knew he was so intelligent. But how would I have known? I never gave him the opportunity to show me that side of him. So I listened as he explained about his days in middle school as a hacker and the e-commerce business he was starting to get off the ground. He was so much more than I initially thought he was. I watched his eyes light up as he started explaining his plans for the future and that made mine light up too.

After I noticed what time it was, I was afraid I would fall asleep on my drive home. He offered to walk me out to my car. As we hugged goodbye the embrace lingered, neither of us wanted to let go. He asked if it was ok to kiss me. I laughed. Little did he know I had been waiting for that kiss all week. But in the end I was grateful he waited because then I actually knew who I was kissing. Who was Blake Norvell? Not only handsome, popular, and confident, but more importantly for me, a guy I genuinely liked and saw as my match.

That defining moment I talked about before? That kiss was it. It was so special and we both knew it in the very instant it was happening. I knew he was going to be the man to challenge me and he knew I was the woman who was going to ground him. And we both knew we were about to bring each other so much happiness. I'm not sure how a kiss can tell you that much, but it really did. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Sign From Blake

I thought about Blake a lot today. These thoughts weren't particularly sad or focused on anything specific, he was just on my mind in a general way. I think it's because it was my first day of school and I wanted to talk to him about it. But for whatever reason, he just seemed too far away. I tried to feel connected to him, but it wasn't working. Maybe that's why I was having a particularly hard time falling asleep tonight.

To make myself sleepy, I started going through a syllabus from one of the classes I had today. I honestly don't know how it happened, but while I was scrolling through, an old email I sent to Blake and saved as a word document months ago popped up on my screen. It was the weirdest thing. How did it get there? I decided to read through it:

I thought I was going to bed early tonight, but after our talk I’m wide awake. Usually when this happens I like to write down my thoughts to clear my head. So to help me fall asleep I decided to write you a letter to let you know what’s on my mind.

November 21st, 2012 1:54 AM (Yes, I scrolled all the way back to the beginning of our text messages, it took like 15 minutes haha): “Maybe I was a wuss because I did not say it to your face, but I didn’t want to be a creep! But you are extremely beautiful! Thank u for the ride! I really do appreciate it!

I was so pleasantly surprised when I got that text message from you. I spent the night hanging out with you and your friends, but I didn’t think for a second you were interested in me. After that text message, we spent the next couple days talking, flirting, and getting to know each other. It was really refreshing. I had gone through a pretty upsetting break up several months earlier and ever since, I hadn’t found a single guy I even enjoyed talking to. Every time I saw that I had a message from you I smiled. It felt good to be excited about someone.

I was so nervous when you picked me up for the Suns game. I didn’t really realize until after you were on your way that I asked you out on a date. As someone who is pretty traditional when it comes to that stuff, that was clearly something I’ve never done before. I tried to get Chris to tag along to make myself feel less lame about it, but looking back I couldn’t be happier that it ended up being just the two of us.

That first date really opened my eyes to the type of person you are. Less than ten minutes into the game I felt like I already knew your life story- the good and the bad. You had nothing to hide and felt completely comfortable with who you are. I liked that. But the night I came over and we failed at watching a movie was when I knew I liked you. You told me all about your geeky side, made me feel so relaxed around you, and gave me the most amazing first kiss I’ve ever had with anyone.

Since then everything has moved quickly, but felt so right. We missed each other so much after that first weekend that you were crazy enough to buy me a last minute flight to come see you and I was crazy enough to take off of work and come. That weekend we had the talk about what was happening between us and what we wanted. I knew it was a huge commitment to start a long distance relationship, but I also knew I wouldn’t be happy unless we gave us a chance. Kissing you on your couch after we made things official was the happiest I’ve been in a long time.

I know we both have our flaws. I know long distance relationships are far from ideal. But I also know how incredibly blessed I feel for having you come into my life and how every time I see you (whether in person or on the computer) my heart melts. Anytime I feel too far away or you’re frustrated with me, I want you to remember how it felt the first time we kissed. I want you to remember the nights we stay up really late telling each other things we’ve never shared with anyone else. Think of where we started and how far we can go together.

You have made me so unbelievably happy. Thank you for making me the luckiest girl in the whole world.


Our first date :)
I haven't gotten any "signs" from Blake in a while. In the beginning, I felt like he was always trying to communicate with me. Things kept happening that couldn't be just a coincidence, they felt like direct messages from him to me. But for the past month or so, I haven't experienced anything remotely close to what I did at first. I was beginning to feel like he sensed I didn't need him anymore, that he was trying to distance himself from me so I could move on. 

Although there is probably a logical explanation as to how this particular document popped up on my computer screen tonight, I choose to believe it was Blake. I sent him that email after we had been dating for a couple months and long distance was starting to wear on us. We ended our video call that night feeling far away from each other and frustrated. I couldn't sleep because I needed to figure out a way to lift his spirits. It killed me to see him so lonely, so I wrote that message to remind him how special our connection was and why we were committed to being together even under these less than ideal circumstances. 

And tonight, in reading that message again Blake lifted my spirits in the same way I intended to lift his. Although the distance is even greater now, I was reminded that he is still close to me. As long as I remember the special connection we share, I will never be lonely.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It Comes in Waves

There was a moment on Friday night.

I had two of my best friends in the whole world next to me. We were holding hands, we had our arms around each other. A band that we used to go see when we were in college was playing a reunion show. I knew all of the words to the songs. I sang. I danced. I smiled. It was incredible.

In that moment, I felt like myself. I felt so grateful to be exactly where I was. I didn't think about anything besides the lyrics to the song, how happy I was to be with people I loved so much, dancing and smiling like I was a freshman in college without a care in the world.

I fell asleep around 4am after not only a great show, but a lengthy catch up session with two more friends back at my best friend's apartment. After we finally exhausted all people and topics we could possibly gossip about, I passed out on the couch in my clothes from the night. I didn't even notice I forgot to get Blake Bear out of my suitcase. When I woke up in the morning and realized this, I was afraid I was going to panic. I had wondered what the first night sleeping without him would feel like. Almost three months have passed and this was my first night falling asleep without the bear nestled in my chest and gripped tightly in my arms. Surprisingly, I felt ok. I survived.

But now the weekend is finished. My best friends are at their houses and I'm in mine. The concert is over, we're no longer dancing, and the songs are just a faint buzz in the back of my mind. Just as I've experienced before after an exciting day, the pendulum has swung the other way. Now I'm on the opposite side of joy.

The debilitating sadness comes in waves now. Instead of being in a perpetual state of shittiness like I was initially, I'm able to experience truly happy moments like I did on Friday night. In those moments I feel like I'm really me again. My heart is light and my mind is clear. I feel part of the world and connected to other people in real and meaningful ways. But then, the tide sucks me back in. I detach from the beautiful world I was starting to feel a part of. Suddenly my brain gets clouded with a million different memories, questions, thoughts, and fears. My heart starts weighing a ton, my chest throbs from the strain. And then I'm lost again. The idea that I thought "I'm really me again" seems strange and artificial. Who am I anyway?

As I'm writing this, clutching Blake Bear, I'm missing Blake so much it hurts. I'm thinking of the fun I had this weekend and how much he would've enjoyed singing, dancing, and gossiping with my friends right alongside me. It just seems so unfair that I get to have these happy moments and he doesn't. You could try to convince me that he was there with me the whole time and got to feel the happiness through me, but right now I'm not in the mood to listen to that stuff with a hopeful heart. When it comes down to it, he's not here and that's not fair. He was only 25 with so much living left to do. So many moments left to experience.

So as I'm riding this wave of sadness, the only thing that comforts me is knowing that just like my moment of happiness, this too shall pass. I will find myself back on the joy side of the pendulum again and the depressive feelings I'm experiencing now will seem far away. I've realized that you can't remain sad forever, just as it's equally as impossible to live in a consistent state of happiness. Moments like Friday night feel as good as they do because I know what it feels like to be devoid of all pleasure and consumed by pain. It takes plummeting to new lows to truly appreciate times when I feel good again.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Coping in Different Ways

There's a TV show called Degrassi that my mom and I have been obsessed with since my sister and I discovered it years ago. The first time we watched it, it was this super awkward episode about one of the main characters getting her period for the first time during school. Since we were young at the time, we immediately turned into a ball of giggles over such an uncomfortable topic being talked about so openly. I believe one of the slogans from the show a few seasons back was "Degrassi: it goes there." Clearly.

Anyway, there was a new episode last night about the funeral for one of the main characters, Adam. Throughout the video, I really related to his brother Drew. While everyone gave him advice to smile, focus on the positives, and move on by allowing himself to say goodbye, he felt completely alone and detached from that advice. All of his friends tried to do what was best for them, which meant sharing memories, laughing, and resolving to make the most of their lives from then on out. But for Drew it was different. He couldn't cope that way.

The link to the video is here, if you want to watch it ---> "Young Forever." It really helped me to watch Drew go through this loss and see the juxtaposition of his struggle and that of Adam's friends and girlfriend. This reminded me that there are so many different ways to cope. Just because one way is right for one person, doesn't mean it's the best for everyone.

The most powerful part for me was the ending. Drew asks his friend, "How do we move on?" and his friend answers, "By learning to say goodbye." In the next scene we see Drew looking at a picture of Adam and surprising himself and everyone there when he starts talking directly to him. At the end of his message he says, "I'm not going to (say goodbye) because to me you'll never be gone." And that's exactly how I feel too.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Everybody Has a Story

During orientation for my grad program, it was drilled into our heads that the 13 strangers in my cohort were about to become my family. Over the next four years we could expect to study together, learn together, argue, cry, be pushed to our wits end, lift each other up, and be each other's greatest support and motivation. I looked around.

Knowing that we need to form a cohesive unit to get through this journey, we decided to get together for a pot luck on Wednesday night. As a bonding activity, each of us was asked to bring an item and share a story. This item was supposed to represent an experience that helped shape us into the people we are now. The story needed to be something personal, a way for us to really get to know each other, to understand what we've been through. So with that in mind, I knew my item and story had to have something to do with Blake.

I've really grappled with the questions of "if/when/how much" I should share with new people about what I'm going through with the death of my boyfriend. Does everyone need to know? If I tell people too soon, will they be blinded by their pity for me and not really get to know me for who I am aside from it? Will telling them too much make people afraid of me and back away from getting close to the mess of a person that I am right now? But in the spirit of allowing these strangers to become my family, I knew this was something I needed to share with them. I needed to share it now and I needed to share as much about it as they were willing to listen to. I put Blake's cologne in my bag, and walked out the door.

When it was my turn for show and tell, I immediately started crying. The first couple of minutes I looked down into my lap at Blake's cologne, insuring that I wouldn't make eye contact with anyone. I didn't want to see their eyes fill with sympathy. I didn't want to watch as I transformed in their minds from the bubbly, smiling girl they met at orientation to a broken, lost soul in pieces in front of them. I blacked out as I started talking. I'm actually not even sure what I said. All I know is that the more I talked, the more I was able to breathe.

I finally looked up at the strangers around me. As I saw their faces, I realized maybe it wasn't just me who was changing in their minds, but also them in mine. But this wasn't a negative thing like I originally thought. They changed in the sense that they didn't feel like strangers anymore. And suddenly I wasn't a stranger in their eyes either. By sharing this personal piece of my life, we became familiar.

One by one all of the strangers took out their items and talked about their lives. And each time, that stranger became a person, someone who was real to me. The stick figure on their page in my book was colored, shaped, and detailed into their own unique form. When I looked around now, I saw friends.

Sometimes I trap myself in my pain by thinking I'm the only one who's ever been hurt this way. In a way I'm right, because no one will ever truly know how it feels to be me in my exact situation as I'm experiencing it now. But it would be foolish for me to think that just because that's true, it means I'm alone in my pain. 

That night with my cohort reminded me that everybody has a story. Although there are a million different ways a person can experience pain, it all hurts. We are all united in our struggles because we know there is no cure for them; pain will always exist, and it may even increase. But every time I turn a stranger into a friend by sharing a piece of my pain, I can breathe easier. And when they share a piece of their pain with me, they can breathe easier as well. The beautiful thing about pain is that it bonds people. And that bond turns strangers into friends and friends into family.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Part of Me

Today I felt good. Good might not seem like a convincingly positive adjective, but it is. Being able to confidently say I feel good without lying is huge. I feel calm, optimistic, and grateful for my life. 

After such a good day of orientation at SDSU and feeling like my life has renewed purpose and direction, I felt an overwhelming need to share my happiness with Blake. As I looked through old pictures and text messages to feel connected to him, I came across these:

As I was reading that, two parts really stuck out to me. In the first, he said, "I wish there was somehow I could help you feel my body and hear my voice reassure you whenever you are down..." Obviously he meant that in terms of him being in Arizona and me in California, but in our current context it applies more than ever. I can't see him or hear him, but I know our love is there. I know what he would say to me, how he would comfort me, the way he would build me back up so I would feel like I could get through anything.

I think Blake can still do that. His love and the confidence it instilled in me doesn't have to leave me just because he's not here anymore. The way he made me feel and the way he believed in me changed me. That influence will never go away. 

The second part that made me reflect was this: "And when you are sad briana.... it hurts me." From the beginning, everyone has told me Blake would want to see me smiling and enjoying life, not mourning him. Although I've always known that's true, before now it seemed pretty much impossible. And honestly, I think it would have been doing myself a disservice in the long run. But now, for the first time, that advice is beginning to feel applicable. I'm at a point where I am ready to smile, ready to focus on the bright side of his life. Will I still cry? Absolutely. But at least now enjoying life doesn't seem like an unreasonable endeavor. 

I'm starting to wrap my mind around the idea that Blake really is part of me now. If I truly believe that I carry him with me wherever I go, I feel strong. Of course it's devastating to know he will never physically be with me again, but this blow is lessened when I realize that I never have to say goodbye completely. He can be the reassurance in my head telling me to go for it. He can be the pulse in my heart that beats with pride for me. And his words can be a reminder that I'm at my most beautiful when I'm honest, genuine, and smiling. 

Blake is alive because he's part of me, and part of everyone he impacted. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Recent Photographs (A Poem)

Where there once was a twinkle
Sheer joy, a spark
Snuffed out is that glow
A gaze vacant and dark

Eyes like pools of despair
So deep you could dive
With a tiny hint of hope
Fighting hard to survive

You can tell she attempts
To produce a natural smile
Strained and dishonest
Hurting all the while

But there’s truth in her eyes
Although a dim glimmer
At the bottom of the darkness
Is a light yet to shimmer

If you look deeply enough
You’ll see hope fighting through
It’s broken and buried
But it’s existence is true

Although her smile is artificial
And her eyes look dejected
At second glance I see a girl
With a pain she has respected

The unwavering joy  
He made shine from her eyes
She knows can’t be faked
So it’s not like she tries

She puts on a good face
And smiles with her friend
Making the most of the moment
While hope is on the mend

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We Are Only as Sick as Our Secrets

After my realization from yesterday about needing to take control, I decided that today was the day to get help. Two weeks ago I tried to go to a Narcotics Anon meeting, but found out after I got there that the meeting was cancelled. Ever since then I have been making excuses to myself about why I shouldn't go again. Narcotics Anon meetings are only available in two places even semi close to me and they are both 30 or more minutes away. Each of these Narcotics Anon meetings is only once a week at a bad time (Tuesday nights, when I'll usually have class and Friday nights, when I'll be trying to have a social life). Clearly this wasn't working.

I heard from a few people that Al Anon (similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, but for the loved ones of Alcoholics) is really helpful, even if the loved one has a different addiction. When I looked up available Al Anon meetings there were some every day of the week, at several locations fairly close to me, and at multiple times throughout the day. This was encouraging, but at the same time made me upset. It seemed unfair that this support was so readily available to loved ones of alcoholics, but not of other addictions. Perhaps this was evidence of the stigma even the families of illegal-drug addicts feel when trying to cope. Hmm...

I decided on a 1 PM meeting and arrived almost an hour early. I walked through the church courtyard, straight to the office, and confidently asked the woman to point me in the direction of the Al Anon meeting. No shame this time. I was there to get help and I didn't care who knew it. She pointed at a room that wasn't open yet, but told me there was a bench outside of it where I could sit and wait. I let my skin take in the sun even as I got hot and a bit sweaty. I wanted to be completely engulfed in the light that I had deprived myself of for the past couple of days. I breathed in and out, letting my lungs swell with the air of the outside world that I felt happy to be a part of today.

Although I can't share much about what went on due to confidentiality, I will say that I did not speak at all during this meeting aside from choking on my name. I don't think this was because I was afraid, but because I just needed to sit and soak it all in. Instead of talking, I did a lot of crying, listening, and reflecting. After it concluded, the woman next to me, perhaps sensing the inner conflict I felt after not speaking up, reassured me that it wasn't necessary to share at the meetings. She explained that sometimes you get even more out of what someone else said. 

During the meeting I scribbled down a quote from the book, Courage to Change, that the leader had someone read a passage from:

"We are only as sick as our secrets. 
Until we let them out into the light, they keep us trapped."

After the wave of insecurity I put myself through over the past few days, this really resonated with me. As much as Blake's death was about him, it is now a part of me and all of those who love him. This tragedy can either become a pain buried in the depths of my heart, or a scar that blends into the landscape of my skin. It's my choice. 

I realize I need to get to a place where I allow this experience to become a part of me without it defining me. This is tricky and is going to take time to navigate. But while I'm working on that, I can find comfort in my choice to free myself of the burden of carrying the hurt as a secret. I've made an effort to not get trapped and I am very proud of myself for sticking to that decision.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Taking the Power Back

For the past two days I've felt completely paralyzed. I can't eat. I can't sleep. I can't smile. I can't move. My bed has become my island and everything that surrounds it is hot lava. I honestly want to venture out of self-induced isolation, but I am afraid to get burned. The world doesn't seem safe right now so I'd rather be alone.

Looking back, I think this started with the confrontation online the other night. After talking it out with Blake's family and a couple of his friends, they reassured me that they were supportive of whatever I felt was right. They never saw my actions as tarnishing Blake's memory and urged me to brush off comments made by people who don't know me and my real intentions. I was comforted by this, but still there was a small seed of insecurity planted in my head.

This seed was watered the other night after another jarring conversation, this time with someone who knew Blake very well. I'm not going to go into details out of respect for that person, but this interaction set me back to the time right after Blake's death when I was questioning everything. Did I know him at all? Was everything a lie? Did he ever love me? It felt like this person enjoyed saying things to have these questions resurface, even after I explicitly explained how the way they were saying things made me feel. I should've let it go. I should've backed away. But I continued to push back, thinking that maybe somehow I could change their mind.

People have told me a thousand times at this point that I need to find inner confidence in knowing who Blake really was, what he wanted, and how truly in love we were. If I am at a place where I let that guide me, no one can rattle me. I have nothing to prove to anyone. Negative comments or critiques won't touch me because I know the real truth.

I am giving people way too much power over me. I refer to myself as a people pleaser, but pleasing other people should never be at my own expense. I can still strive to make people feel comfortable, happy, and loved without taking away from my own comfort, happiness, and love for myself. Every time I give someone the power to instill doubt or insecurity in me, I am chipping away at my self worth. If I cross that line and don't respect my own right to these things, no one will.

That's not to say I need to be selfish and only worry about my own wants and needs, because that would make me no better than the people who have gone out of their way to put me down. Instead, I need to protect myself above all else. There is absolutely no reason for me to waste two days of my life paralyzed on an island of my own making. I say "my own making" because I can't blame the conversations or the two people I had them with for getting me to this point. No one put me here but myself. It was my own decision to let these things affect me in a way that caused me to shut down. I need to take the power back.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vows to Blake (A Letter)

This morning I woke up from a dream that I can't remember. As my dream was becoming lucid, I can recall telling myself that I needed to write my vows to Blake. Wedding vows? Was this my mind playing a cruel joke on me? Clearly I am never going to marry Blake, so why would I need to write him vows?

I told this to one of my friends, and she had a different interpretation. She suggested:
I thought this was a positive way to see the dream and a great idea. My mom has always pushed me to look for lessons in every life experience. I have been meaning to write down all of the things being in love with Blake has taught me, so I thought this could be my perfect opportunity to do so:

To My Love Blake,
I vow to honor you and your memory for the rest of my life. This doesn't mean saving myself for you, or making my life about you, but rather to embody all of the principles you stood for and strive to grow in the way you were helping me grow.

The most important thing I can do is to work every day to suspend judgement. You always taught me to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. In your life, you were a true friend to everyone, regardless of whether it was outwardly aparent what you could "gain" from their friendship. I watched in awe as you developed rapport with the children at the hotel pool, the old couple next to us at dinner, our taxi driver, my students, the merchants for your company, and so on. You were fascinated by people and knew that everyone had a unique and important story. Your curiosity made you a magnet. Just as I was so attracted to you, the world was pulled in by your openness and genuine interest.

But this suspension of judgement goes further than just the first impression of a person. Sometimes after you get to know someone, they disappoint you.There are times when people do and say things that cut you deeply and make you question whether they have anything good to contribute to your life or society in general. This is when you taught me to be even more forgiving. You taught me that it is ok to argue, fine to disagree. But at the end of the day what really mattered is that you didn't let these conflicts color what you thought of that person. You had an amazing ability to relase the people from your life who weren't adding any goodness, but never think of them as bad people. And for the people you loved, you were always willing to accept an apology and move forward, knowing that some people are too important to lose.

I took from you these lessons of suspending judgement of others, but the most vital lesson you were teaching me was to stop the harsh judgment of myself. This is a lesson I am still working on. I vow to remember every day that I am not perfect, but I'm perfectly flawed. My flaws are there as obstacles to remind me to never stop learning, to never be complacent about how I look at the world and myself. I will make mistakes. I will say and do the wrong things. But that's ok. I need to be patient and kind with myself. I will strive to always look critically at my choices and judgments, apologize often and sincerely, and know that I am still a good person, despite the mistakes I make. The important thing isn't to be perfect, but to be perfectly myself.

I vow to honor you and cherish you for the rest of my life. I vow to keep an open mind and an open heart, both of which hold no maximum capacity. I vow to apologize and forgive frequently and genuinely, knowing that is the recipe for enduring and healthy relationships with the people I love. I vow to release people from my life who no longer benefit me, but never let that give me permission to think ill of their character. I vow to continue to be the girl you fell in love with and grow to love myself just as much.

Forever and always,

Friday, August 9, 2013

What Would Blake Want?

My blood is boiling and my heart is pounding out of my chest. I am going to try to remain calm so I can get my thoughts out.

I was just about to go to sleep after finishing my last post when I got a message from an acquaintance that I went to school with at USC. I am going to copy the entire conversation because I think I'll lose important details if I try to paraphrase:

Him: Hey I met someone who was friends with Blake, and they said they were really mad that you posted all those things about his heroin problem on Facebook. You totally have a right to grieve, but that is a really private thing that you publicized to thousands of people that didn't know him and now know him as a heroin addict. I really agree with him and felt I should say something.
Me: Well I respect your opinion, but I had full permission and encouragement from his family
Him: You should respect Blake, what would he want?
Me: He would want people to learn from his death. He wouldn't want people to have to hide their addiction because people would judge them for it. He would want people to find strength and get help. He would hope that what happened to him could serve as a lesson to others.
Him: Well I really hope that’s the case
Me: It is. Whoever is "mad at me" probably doesn't know me or Blake that well, so they can be mad at me. That’s fine.
Him: Ok....
Me: I know what I’m doing is right, so you can be mad at me too. That’s fine as well
Him: I’m sorry but I felt they should of told you
Me: Will you tell me who it was? (no answer for several minutes) I'm glad you at least told me yourself so I have an opportunity to talk to you about why you feel this way, but I think it's really a shame to not tell me who it was so I can have the same opportunity with the person you met. How can any of us grow from this if we say things behind people’s backs instead of confronting them? If that person is so mad at me, then I'd like to give them an opportunity to confront me about it
Him: Because it isn't my place. Just like saying certain things isn't certain peoples rights. You are in a bad place
Me: I am in a bad place?
Him: and you need love and I understand why you are doing those things
Me: I need love?
Him: but you should take that stuff down
Me: I am trying really hard to not judge you for your accusations about me, but how are you so certain you know so much about me, what I'm going through, and why I've chosen to do the things I've done? None of this is because I need love. It's out of love for Blake
Him: Look, it is up to you, but I think I have a very valid point. Goodbye

...And then he blocked me.

Rereading the conversation now that I’m not in the heat of the moment, I realize there are definitely places where I let myself get upset and combative instead of really hearing him out. Although this confrontation would’ve meant a lot more to me coming from a person who is actually friends with Blake and not some random person who barely even knows me, I do see his point. I was very quick to rattle off several reasons why Blake would want me to share about his addiction, but I had to ask myself, is serving as an example to others what Blake would’ve wanted his legacy to be or is that what I want?

The interesting dilemma here is that once a person has passed away, you can no longer ask him what he wants. All I can do is trust that his family and I knew him well enough to know what would make him proud. But this brings up the hardest thing about finding out about Blake's addiction.The terrifying question that I had to ask myself: Did I ever really know Blake at all?

This is a really big point of insecurity for me. With all of the lies and secrets, it's easy to convince myself that everything must have been a lie. But when I look at the way we look at each other in the videos of us, read the heartfelt and romantic messages he wrote me, think back on all of the deep, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional conversations we had, I know without a doubt that our love wasn't a lie. I knew the real Blake Norvell. So what if I didn't know about his drug use? His drug use was his addiction, not who he was as a person. And who he was as a person is COMPLETELY separate from that. 

It's very unfortunate that people can't separate the person from the addiction, which ironically, has been a lot easier for me because of the way Blake hid it from me. People like this guy and "Blake's friend" see the addiction side of him being represented and talked about and are blinded by that. Yes, addiction was part of his life- there's no denying that. To deny that and sweep it under the rug would only perpetuate the same stigma that causes addiction to persist and get exponentially worse. I can only imagine that he completely hid his addiction because people view it as a sign of weakness, a flaw of character, a horrific label that makes you lesser. Who would want to come clean and get help if they knew it would be greeted by those kinds of judgements? So yes, addiction was part of Blake, but it was not who he was.

Anyone that knows me or has read anything I've written knows that I have nothing but love, admiration, and respect for Blake. Learning about his addiction hasn't changed my view of him, and it pains me to think that it might have changed others'. I wish with all my heart that that wasn't the case. I wish that people could look at an addict with compassion and see their heart and their struggle and know they are the same person inside, but they just have a disease. Maybe then they'd have a fighting chance of finding the love and acceptance they need to start getting better.

So now that I've had time to cool down and think about his question "What would Blake want?" I have a better answer. The Blake I knew would do anything and everything in his power to help others, even strangers. I know in my heart that if his story could help save even just one person, he would give me his blessing a million times over to share any detail of what happened. He would risk people thinking badly about him if it meant that others could see him, a popular, well-liked, respected person, and know that if he struggled with addiction, maybe it can affect anyone. Blake was generous and truly selfless. He would want people to hear about his addiction and learn from it.