Houston: A Love Letter

That is…to an abusive lover..

I think I was about 9 or 10 when my aunt told me she was moving to Conroe, Texas. I wrote in my diary that I was fine with her moving to “Con Row” because I thought it was just a street in Waco, Texas. Nope. But her move to Conroe brought about many happy summers for me as I went to visit her for a week every year. I remember bits and pieces of my experience in Conroe growing up, like how the streets always looked so weirdly wide compared to my hometown. Or the Incredible Pizza we went to as a tradition. I had no idea that I would find myself settled in the exact area I grew up in. It was beyond weird to drive the wide roads myself as a grown adult, work at the kroger next to my favorite Incredible Pizza, and occasionally pass by my aunts old neighborhood. It’s even more strange to think that I was wandering around the area at the same time as the people I know now, we just didn’t know each other then. But such is life, and fate, and all that good stuff.

So, Houston.

I’ve been in the shadows of your monstrosity of a city for about 5 years now. I came in a bright eyed, innocent teenager ready to pave her own way and become a theatre teacher. I am now a broke, slightly bitter, weathered 22 year old with the odd desire to become president. That’s a story for another day.

It seems that most of my time here has been filled with tragedy after tragedy. Losing great friends, losing boyfriends, leaving college, becoming broke, leaving real estate, feeling the failure, feeling alone, losing my Raider, trying desperately to find my soul mate and failing. Over and over and over again. They ask me why I’m leaving…this is why.

But even though I’ve set it in my heart to leave this abusive life, I still find reasons to stay. If you’ve ever driven 45 south to Midtown, you might understand the relief that comes with the first glimpses of skyscrapers. I’m always in awe as they grow taller and closer. Especially at night. And the trees of The Woodlands…how I love pine trees. We don’t get them down south. All my life I thought the hill country was the prettiest part of Texas, until I saw my forest. Everything else seems dull in comparison. Or the way everyone fearlessly goes 80+ on 45 (which is 60mph/65mph depending on where you are) with the attitude that they can’t catch all of us. They try….lord, do they try…I’ve never seen so many cops poised daily to attack. My heart soars when I get good music on and can punch the gas pedal. I love to fly down the highway. You just can’t get that in suburbia! The weather is also kind of awesome. We get more of a chance for snow than down south. Colder weather, more exciting weather, lots of rain, again…you just don’t get this where I come from.

The part I will miss the most, though, is the people I’ve met in the worst times and great times. I look around my jobs, with their quirky and beautiful people, and I can’t even imagine living without them. How do I leave? (nod to The Office) Show me the tree that my favorite people grow on. I want it.

Houston, you abusive asshole. You keep drawing me back in when I try to get away. For half a year I’ve gone back and forth, and when I finally make up my mind, I’m even more distraught. I love you, Houston.

 

Make it Stop

This one is going to be rough, because if I stare at it too long it’s not going to be published. You’ll see why in a second.

Welcome to everything in my brain. More than you probably ever wanted to know about me.

Sometimes I feel like I have schizophrenia because of the constant battle between my polar opposite personalities. Maybe I do. I should probably have that checked out. On one hand we have perfectly confident, happy, proud Shelby who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. On the other is the Shelby riddled with depression and anxiety. We’ll give Sunshine Shelby the ADD to even it out a little bit. Sunshine Shelby and Hateful Shelby constantly argue. I argue with myself? There are two voices in my head arguing. God this is weird. I’m crazy, just say it.

It’s been months since I stopped taking my meds, but to be honest, I could down an entire bottle of abilify and the voices will still scream at me. It is so….so….difficult to be sunshine when the other half of me is telling me loud and clear that I’m worthless. You’re bothering people. God, you’re pathetic. Get out of the way. Failure. You’re stupid. They’re so loud it’s hard to think past them. And then comes the panic attack.

How is one supposed to keep their chin up against a cruel world when they can’t even handle themselves?

I’ve been suicidal twice in my adult life. The first time I realized what my thoughts were and immediately fought it. I was actually angry because I wanted to live. How dare my brain and heart deny me that! The second time I gave in, because there was nothing left. Nothing was on the balance to keep me afloat this time. If it hadn’t been for my best, oldest friend and my persistent mother, I wouldn’t be here. I didn’t think I would make it out of that.

I don’t know what else to say, other than how exhausting the constant roller coaster of Sunshine Shelby’s anger and Hateful Shelby’s put downs is. No wonder I’m so depressed.

 

What are your stories? Do you struggle too? How do you cope?

Raider Power: The Purest Puppy Soul That Ever Lived

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They keep asking me if I’m ok. Usually I am. But I still have moments when the thought comes back, “He’s gone. It’s irreversible. He’s gone.” and I just break inside.

We got Raider when I was 7 or 8. Somehow a Kooikerhondje (Coy-ker-hound) mix found his way onto the streets of South San Antonio and was picked up by a family who couldn’t keep him, so they brought him to our church, where we fell in love. (Kooikerhondje’s are basically Dutch Border Collies and super rare in the US.) Suddenly we had a puppy. I hadn’t had a dog since the golden retriever, Misty, who died when I was super little. My only memory of her was her very last day. Misty had been mostly an outside dog, I think, but we tried Raider inside for his first few days. Little did we know this poor baby had every kind of worm a dog could get. Our ‘free’ puppy quickly racked up $1000s in vet bills within a few months of having him. My parents grumbled and groaned, and maybe money was tight for a bit, but we took care of him. However, during his sickness, he became an outside dog.

Now, just for everyone reading this….don’t make your dog an outside dog. It’s just bad. Take the time to train them to be indoors and everyone’s lives will be easier, I promise.

All his life, the only thing Raider wanted was to be with his family. Well…and be petted by his family. Usually just sitting with us wasn’t enough. He split his puppy days between sitting in front of the patio door and whining/watching us, and running trenches into the ground every time anything passed our corner yard. And he barked. He barked so much. Occasionally I would go outside to play with him, brush him, and love him, but I’ll be the first to admit we did not show our love as we should. I hated the outdoors, with all the bugs and the heat. And Raider was outdoors…which sucked. One time I went to feed him and there was a giant (I mean GIANT.), yellow spider sitting on the wall next to the door. I nearly fainted. Needless to say, I did not spend much time outside for a while until it laid its eggs and moved on. I was NOT about to risk that monster jumping on me and eating me while I tried to cross the threshold! Poor Raider.

He wasn’t completely abandoned, though. Every morning, my parents would take him on their runs. One morning my mom tripped on a speed bump and broke her finger. Raider could have taken that opportunity to make a run for it, but he sat next to my poor mother until she was ready to get up. The best boy!

I was the last one to go off to college, and when I did, Raider became solely my parent’s responsibility. I came home to one weekend every month my Freshman year, and when I did I always tried to spend time for Raider, as I had seen the error in his upbringing but could do nothing to fix it. Until I met my latest ex, who taught me how to properly care for dogs. I brought him home to meet my family one weekend. He took one look at Raiders living condition and declared that we HAD to take him with us. So we did. Raider went to college! (see Raider Diaries) At this point, Raider was 12. Kooikerhondje’s typically live to about 13. This boy was oooold, but he fit into our little band of misfits so well. We called him Boof, because his incessant barking as a puppy had mellowed into a soft…boof…for lack of a better description. My useless guard dog 🙂 Raider loved to lay with us on the bed, the couch, the floor, eat puppucino’s, and run after the tennis balls we threw.

A couple of months in, Raider began to pee randomly. We couldn’t figure out what was causing it, because it really was random. So we took him to the vet. Mr. Vet found out that this boy had a butt tumor that was raising the calcium levels in his body and causing him to feel the need to pee more. A butt tumor. Of freaking course. He gave Raider a year to live after we admitted no one had the money to pay for a surgery. We cried over our baby and decided that as soon as he showed signs of pain, we would let him go. And then we waited.

Raider went another year, watching a cat and another dog join the family, and only showing his age a little more. He watched my ex leave me, my struggle to maintain my household and life as a ‘single mom’, and eventually watched me help him into my moms car for the trip back to my hometown. I could no longer care for all of my babies by myself and my parents offered to take him back. They also promised to keep him inside from then on, since he had proven himself. Shortly after moving home, my parents found out Raider had to have more teeth pulled because his gums were rotting. (Remember how I said dogs shouldn’t be outside? This is why. Hygiene.) Another couple of thousand dollars later, his breath didn’t smell so bad and he was actually more hyper than ever. He was doing so well back home! Even with like no teeth!

The last time I saw Raider was when the family convened in Waco for Christmas. My boy was shaved like my parents liked him, basically toothless, but very happy and loving as ever. I gave him all the love.

March 1st, 2019, my mom texted me while I was at work that Raider’s tumors had begun to bleed. She had scheduled a vet visit for the next day, but we still couldn’t afford the surgery that would now be more invasive and expensive than before. The day that I thought I was prepared for had arrived and I was actually horribly unprepared. In the midst of trying to learn how to serve at a new restaurant, I constantly had to run to the back before I started sobbing in front of customers and coworkers alike. I was four hours away, working every day that weekend, and scheduled to go home in just two weeks. I knew I would not see him again.

I was right. The next morning, mom called to tell me they would be putting him down in a few hours and that she would facetime me so I could say goodbye to my baby. It was so short….I wanted him to hear my voice, hear the love I have for him, one last time, but I still don’t even know if he understood….and then the call was over. All morning I could only think about what was happening four hours away. My parents had brought a blanket with them, and I had made them promise to hold him and love him. This is what I imagined as the needles went in. I imagined my mother chanting “Raider Power” as she often did growing up. Raider was named for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, my parents university. I imagined my happy, unaware puppy lying down and slowly falling asleep. I imagined this and hoped, I prayed, that Raider knew how much he was loved. Because he was so loved. We were so oblivious to the care he needed for so long, but there was never a second that he was unloved or unappreciated. And I wish more than anything that my precious dog could somehow tell me that he understood, that my efforts at the end of his life were enough. Yall, the guilt eats me alive.

Raider’s tumors had become open sores. They were not going to get better. He would have to go back outside because the bleeding wasn’t stopping, and the sores would get infected. I know this. But my dog was still happy and full of life. It’s so hard to reconcile the fact that we took his life away. But what life would it have been in the backyard he hated so much? I tell myself at least 10 times a day that he’s gone, and the finality of it still shocks me. At some point yesterday or today my golden boy was lifted into an incinerator and reduced to ashes that I will receive when I go home in a few weeks. He is gone.

I haven’t decided what kind of grand cosmic existence there is out there, but I hope more than anything that we have some sort of soul that goes somewhere when we die. If any creature in the world deserves a heaven, it’s my Raider. There was never a mean bone in that dogs body. I hope that he’s up there in the beautiful fields of grass and tennis balls and that he sees my heart. I hope he sees my guilt and the best intentions I had and forgives my ignorance.

This one is for you, Boof. I will live my life in memory of your pure love and cherish the years you gave me. Thank you for being mine.

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Raider’s last picture. Happy as ever. So oblivious. Ugh…my heart. 

Lets Talk About the Weather

Now I’m going to take a moment to be serious.

The Midwest is seeing a strange….what do we call this? Ice storm? Enormous freeze? Arctic weather not in the Arctic? You get the point. Chicago is colder than the Arctic right now. The literal Arctic. Polar Bear weather. Or maybe more extreme than Polar Bear weather?? Is that even possible? All over my feed people are sharing their experiences as the weather settles in for a deep chill around them. Doors to Starbucks (STILL OPEN BY THE WAY) are frozen over, inside hinges of homes are frozen over, there are warnings of frost bite with blackened ears and toes. This is insane. I’ve been constantly reminded of The Day After Tomorrow, a movie about apocalyptic weather overcoming the US and the trials that ensue. In one scene, a group of survivors in New York trek across the frozen city to a safer place. Those who stopped to rest died in the extreme cold. In another scene, a sudden temperature drop swept through the area, literally freezing everything instantaneously. (The theatrical moment saw walls icing over, flags freezing where they used to wave, etc) Maybe this wasn’t possible back in the day, but I don’t think we should underestimate the capability of Earth anymore.

Which brings me to my point. I’ve been mulling over this idea for a while, but now it seems solidified in the historical events happening around us. The time of humanity is over. Earth is changing, whether in order to rid itself of us or not. We see this as hurricanes become more powerful, summers and winters more extreme, the ice is melting, the seas are rising, tectonic plates are moving, etc. Global warming, yay.

You may roll your eyes or shake this off. Even refute it. But we consider ourselves masters of the Universe and this is simply not the case. We are tiny, insignificant, proud coincidences. (I already see religious outrage coming. Leave it at home, yall) The sun could drop out of Space tomorrow and we would be doomed. The Sun could change even the slightest BIT and we would be doomed. Another planet could crash into us and we would be doomed. The moon. Our Earth. Everything is a perfect coincidence. A PERFECT happenstance. Maybe it was created by a superior being, maybe it wasn’t. But this fact remains; we have no control, and we are not all powerful. We are very very fragile. We sit on our plush, fake thrones and play politics with other fragile humans as if it actually matters. We debate and call each other names like it matters. Tiny human minds. You’re dying.

I guess the moral of this post is to see who we really are in this universe. Even if you believe in a god, see this truth. Everything could fall apart in a heart beat. Everything kind of is, already. So pray, help your neighbor in these hard times, help the Earth.

Now I want to know if there are Polar Bears at the Chicago Zoo and whether they’re loving this or not…turn on the Polar Bear cam, yall.

The Outcome of 6 Months of Typing and Deleting

I started to write a poem, because that was what I felt at the time. But the more this thought grew, I knew it was a blog post. The funny thing is….I think my last blog post was about the very beginning. I’ll have to go check.

It’s been 6 months and 5 days since my relationship ended. It feels like a lifetime. I’ve come to the keyboard so many times over these months to tell my story, but then I realized none of it mattered anymore. The hows, the whys, the fingers pointed at other fingers. I have done my analyzing, and it didn’t change anything. It’s over. It was over on day 1, to be honest.

You see, as much as these things don’t matter, I have to explain something for you to see the whole picture. He never loved me. Not once in the 2 1/2 years that he said he did. Not when he promised me it would be forever, that I was his life, that we were partners. He tried. That’s ok. It’s ok, because I loved him with every fiber of my being. My soul. I have never loved a human with so much of me in my entire life. And while people may argue differently, I know deep down that this is the absolute truth, no matter what. You might be wondering, how could I possibly think this when the relationship was so flawed and he didn’t even love me back? None of this impeded the ever growing adoration I felt for him. Granted, I didn’t know he didn’t love me until after it ended…but that is besides the point.

I thought I hadn’t found that great love yet. I worried that I never will. But it was there. Just because it wasn’t reciprocated doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. I have felt this great love. The love of my life. I can only imagine the awesome power of that love when it could be reciprocated. Over these 6 months and 5 days….6 days…it’s now after midnight…I have met and dated countless men. At first it served to fill the void…the need for affection and companionship I felt when suddenly my life partner had evaporated. I found some who have made me hope for a new start. False hope, but hope nonetheless. I’ve never been down for long, and this was no exception. But underneath the hope, I realize now that I’ve held onto my great love. It has never left me. It never will. I feel it when I open my pantry and see those damn Kahlua chocolates, or I eat our favorite Dijorno’s pizza. I feel it when I sleep perfectly on my side of the bed like I’m waiting for someone to hop into bed beside me. I feel it when I turn on the computer we built together, see the icons for the games we played. I feel it when our four-legged daughter does something cute and her daddy is not there to share the moment. I feel it in the silent darkness as I open the door to my empty apartment after a long day and there’s no one here to welcome me home. To our home.

I have felt this great love. My sweet, so intelligent, so gentle, so funny love.

It’s been 6 months and 6 days. I still cry. Hell, there are tears now. It’s not the hour long sobbing sessions that definitely spooked my neighbors in the beginning. The pain is still there.

After hearing a story, not so unlike mine, a very important question came to mind. What now? What do you do when you have loved so hard and so brilliantly so young? When you have given your soul to someone already, but an entire life lies ahead of you? What do you do when you have had your love of a lifetime, your white picket fence, so soon? I used to ponder this question out of love for a friend and their future, but now it seems this is my fate too. Although it makes me determined to find an answer, I worry that there is none. Do you wander aimlessly, because none of the faces you see are the face? Do you have hope? Is there even hope? Hope for what? Something less divine than the love we felt? Something beyond belief, dare I say..better?

I’ve run out of words, but I don’t know how to end this..so here is my underwhelming ending. Ta da.

The Mental Disorder Where You Hate Everything But Your Cat

This time last year I began my first summer school semester while working my part time job in another city close to my home. Mornings were difficult, as I was a closer and didn’t get home until 10 most nights, but I trudged on. Slowly it crept up on me.. I would open my eyes at 7 am, stare at the ceiling for ages, groan, and roll out of bed. As time passed I spent more time staring at the ceiling. And then I didn’t get out of bed at all. I didn’t feel anything at all. My grade in my first class made it out alive, but my second semester course had to be mercy killed. I spent the rest of the Summer trying to sleep as much as possible so I could start Fall classes with more energy. I thought it was just exhaustion, but it was actually a very complex problem.

I remember the day we finally understood my mental state. It was as if I was in a sound proof room, staring at the world without hearing, feeling, or really seeing anything. I knew I loved my family, Jared, and my sweet puppy, but I couldn’t reach the emotion. It was locked away somewhere and I was trapped in smoke. I remember crying in frustration because I couldn’t feel anything. You might think, “isn’t frustration an emotion?” Let me ask you this; if you feel dead inside and all you can do is stare blankly ahead while the most precious person in your life is desperately trying to fix you, wouldn’t you want to scream and cry? Wouldn’t you feel hopeless and guilty for not being able to connect with them and ease their pain? How about if at the same time you felt these emotions, you also felt smothered and wanted to hide in the corner, away from touch and affection? It was terrifying.

After months of wrestling with depression and keeping my grades passing, I finished that semester and obtained prescriptions for both ADD and Depression/Anxiety. Suddenly, I was a boss at my job. I stopped accidentally breaking glass shelves (my record is 2), spilling drinks all over everywhere, dropping everything, and feeling so overwhelmed I broke down in the middle of my shift. I had enough energy to clean my apartment every day if I wanted to. I woke up with a smile, I was the sun, the world was my oyster, and all that jazz. It was truly perfect.

Another semester came and went, as did the healing effects of my new medications. Dosages were bumped up. Nothing. I carried on. I landed my dream job. Summer began, and I found myself without a life outside of my job. After everything I’d been through the previous year, the thought of my giant cloud of depression creeping back up on me was enough to have me hyperventilating. Yet…..what reason did I have to get out of bed? I didn’t want food. I didn’t want to write. It was hot outside. I had no where to go that didn’t involve spending money. As I stared at the ceiling fan circling each day, I felt the passion leave again. Then went the motivation to eat, followed by the need for affection. Why weren’t my meds working anymore? My dosage had doubled! Confused, frightened, and alone, I sat in my mental corner and submitted to the emptiness.

Every day is a battle. I never fully gave in, and I refuse to give up. I was never really alone, either. My pets need me. My love needs me. When I put my feet on the floor, it’s to keep my babies from neglect or to get Jared off my back. Gentle pushes from him lead to gentle pushes from myself. It started with a chore a day until I ran out of things to clean. Eventually I discovered I’m happiest when I’m working. This is a problem in itself, because you can’t just stay at work 24/7….I wish. (haha?) Observing my true self emerge when I’m on the floor has given me strength to fight. It’s the little things, like remembering my mom gush over how happy I was as a baby, or rediscovering my passion for music. A little research found that my meds don’t treat my depression because I don’t have much, if any, serotonin. My current meds only boost existing serotonin. This means a simple call to the doctors is the solution. One small step for Shelby, one giant leap for Shelby’s mind. It’s so easy, but it will probably be a day or two before that appointment gets scheduled….

Like most of my blogs, this is therapy. An open letter to the world as I embark on my life journey. I’m Neurodivergent (you’re welcome, Jared). Behind that smile is a million different trains of thought, emotions, so much pain, and so much love. I obsessively clean, I have this habit of absentmindedly staring at sinks while supposed to be doing dishes, and some days I don’t leave my apartment at all. The point is; there’s a lot underneath the surface. I’m a lot to handle, even for myself. When I’m not staring at ceilings, I love to write, read, watch tv/movies for their art, squeal over animals, and I’m even kind of a gamer. I hope to get back to that passionate Shelby after I make that call.

It Started With Cheese

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(Jared would like to note that his face here is ridiculous and that is not actually his smile.)

 

I often go back to the very beginning, wishing I could relive the first bursts of absolute love all over again. We had been talking for almost a week when I decided enough was enough. Jared reeled me in so easily with his smooth lines and witty conversation. I was eating out of the palm of his hand in no time. During that week, one could find me dashing through my apartment, giggling, dancing, squealing, and screaming. What caused my whole body to erupt in giddiness brought puke to others mouths. I hadn’t even met the boy and I was already in heaven! Our first date lasted 25 hours. We didn’t intend it to, naturally. I certainly didn’t go into it thinking I would sleep with the first man I had been on a first date with in years. Now, don’t go sticking your noses up at me. We didn’t “sleep” together. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lets go back to 5pm, January 21, 2016. An apartment of 4 giggly girls peeked out of their various windows to catch the first glimpse of a boy sitting in a large, black jeep. How long had he been sitting there? Why wasn’t he getting out? Was he so nervous?  I remember the unstoppable butterflies that had kept me afloat since meeting Jared only grew more jumpy when I finally saw him move to exit his jeep. An eternity later a knock announced his arrival. Breathlessly tugging on my outfit and patting down my hair, I opened the door. He was smaller than I had imagined. And I had worn my favorite boots, which had a bit of a heel. Oh boy…

I was surprised how easily conversation carried on face to face. And when it didn’t, the silence was comfortable. As weird as it sounds, I was happy to watch him eat and memorize the man before me. He was quite handsome. He made me laugh. He told good stories. When the famous Farmhouse roast beef ran out, Jared had drunken ten sweet tea refills,and we had boxed up a large piece of red velvet cake for later, we headed back to his place to watch a movie. We simply couldn’t let the night end there! The sun went down, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World turned into Bridget Jones Diary, which then turned into munching on cake. (Somehow we managed to finish them, even though I was pausing it every 5 minutes for Jared to pee out his refills) During the movies we had forgone the awkward “no touching” stage and grown quite comfortable with each other. This prompted many hours of cuddling and conversations on the couch. We spread our life stories out for each other, feeling none of the usual strangeness present on a first date. The night wore on until we fell asleep in each others arms. It was so easy.

Eventually the first date had to end. I had people waiting for me back home who I knew would be dying for every detail. I’ll never forget how we flocked to the windows again to watch him leave, or how he spotted us from the parking lot and laughed. Just as it had been all week, a smile was ever-present on my face as I described the dream I lived. I rolled the events over and over that night, scarcely believing it could be real. Never in my life had someone matched me so perfectly, right down to our food preferences. He was perfect. But, life had taught me otherwise. I will admit, the moment I met him and realized how perfect he was, I knew the shoe had to drop. Nobody could be like that. But it never did. It still hasn’t. Being with Jared was natural from the very beginning. I’m sure I loved him soon after our first conversation, but wouldn’t admit it until after our date. Even though it was extremely early in the relationship, we were on the exact same page. From then on, we blossomed so quickly with no barriers in our way.

Jared freed me in every way possible over our first year. With his guidance and love I have become the best version of myself. I have grown to understand the world and love more than I ever have. There is never a day where I don’t look at him in awe. I still can’t believe how lucky I am. I wasn’t looking for much, but I found everything. We make each other stronger. We tried to live our own lives in the beginning, but it was just better for us to be together. There was no point in forcing separation when our beings just wanted to be close.

Tonight we went back to the little restaurant that started it all as changed people. Solidified people. We remembered the two awkward, young people who sat a few tables away. The gentle adoration, the innocent laughter, the simple love that glowed between us that night has only brightened over time. It will become more blinding as we face every new challenge together. Every new day I am so excited to earn his love, his precious smile, and my place in his strong arms. Happy Anniversary, my sweet love. This one’s for you!

 

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