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  • Alexandra Hillenbrand

letting things go

When something bothers me, I have an incredibly hard time letting it go. Like a particularly itchy mosquito bite or a very terrible migraine, I find myself incapable of ignoring an off-putting comment or upsetting experience. In fact, I have a horrible habit of dwelling on these indelible moments in life. The things I can't change haunt me. As a consequence, the present, which I can control, evades me.

I could lie to you and say I have any sort of method for moving on and letting things go, but I do not. Sometimes, I think I'm not even trying. I find myself crying in the car listening to Olivia Rodrigo or lying awake, painfully sorting through every one of my mistakes or failures. It's as if I prefer the misery of focusing on the negative instead of celebrating the good. I think at the very least, it has become far too comfortable for me to remain in that headspace. I'm so afraid to let go of the harshness I impose on myself. Without my hyper self-awareness and criticism, I often don't know who I'd be.

Other times, I'll float above reality and convince myself that I'm so wise now. As if all of my problems have been solved by time and by distance and that I am so much happier now. That the me of five minutes ago - the sad one - is old and not evolved enough. The problem, however, is that she is me. So, five minutes later, the sad me is back and I am apt to hate her. All she wants to do is feel sorry for herself, which is, ultimately, all that self-loathing chalks itself up to. It's the delusion of thinking that dwelling on what I despise about myself makes me a "good person". Truly, it just serves to make me miserable.

I have come to understand that caring is what makes you good. I try to convince myself of that, at least. I know that it's true, but I don't know if I'll ever become willful enough to actually believe it and practice it. Because knowing is different than believing. Believing an idea means it is ingrained in your consciousness. Knowing means that you have to remind yourself that it's true using facts and reality. Maybe its because I have never been a very logical person that this concept is so hard for me. I prefer to dream. And that means I am constantly living inside my head.

And so, I carry a lot of guilt when I am unable to be wholly in the present moment. When my mind is so buried in my consciousness and in the past that I can't even process the joy around me. I ignore the progress. This aspect of myself is exhausting and futile. I spend so much time processing and then reprocessing certain traumas with my therapist. When I talk about them, everything always just feels like it was yesterday. It helps greatly, but to an extent. Only because - will any part of you ever feel healed from what once was capable of breaking you? Or accepting of the characteristics you find shameful about yourself that you can never change? Maybe. The truth is, I don't know yet. Sometimes, the journey feels rewarding. Other times, you just want to shut off all of the lights and just give up.

It's the most illogical conundrum - when you know you should feel peace, but all you feel is the fury in your chest. I find myself constantly annoyed and at odds with myself. Just be happy already! Your life is falling into pieces. You are loved. You are good.

But, then the solemn voice whispers - you don't deserve it - the peace that is. It would be bad for you, anyway. You gain your sense of empathy through suffering. Who would you become? Why do you think you deserve it? Destroy it. Think about anyone and anything that ever made you feel unworthy of love. That's what you deserve. You can't have the peace. You wouldn't know what to do with it.

And that voice fucking sucks. (And I try not to curse in my writing because my mother asked me not to, but fuck it! She knows it's true!) Because the voice is fucking monstrous. Even worse, the voice is me. Which I can't fathom any more than I can understand that we're attached to this planet through gravity. As in, I can logically know that it's true, but maybe I can't explain the origins of where it came from or why it's there. I just know that it is and always has been. Just like I know that the awful voice that continues to cocoon me within my depression has always been there. It makes no sense, to spend so much of my life tearing myself down. If I'm so exhausted all the time, isn't the voice exhausted too?

I'm writing about this today because I have spent a lot of time talking about growth and healing. I tend to want to treat my narratives as pieces written in hindsight, with the perspective of proving that all tragedies end. Truthfully, patterns of thinking are harder to break than that. I didn't walk out of college on May 20th unsure if I deserved a future and then weeks later, just happily decided to wake up noticing that the sky was brighter and the grass was perfectly green. Not at all.

It's taken what feels like eternities and I'm still not 100 percent there. I try to chase butterflies, watch sunsets, to reach into my soul and choose to love myself despite all that I hate about myself too. It's frustrating, but I think that it's okay that it's taking so much time. I wish I wouldn't take so long of course, but I've never been patient with results. The truth is, it already has gotten better, even in the tiniest of ways. My heart doesn't race nearly as much. Saying no doesn't feel like I'm actively sticking a knife in my chest. I count my blessings and see the good with which I'm surrounded and try to emulate it as best as I can. I try to ignore the gnawing at my chest for what it is, the worst parts of me. The skin that I'm trying to shed. The proof lies in the fact that I have so much to be grateful for. Besides, I'm trying to be more logical these days.

I can't just tell you I'm at peace because quite frankly, I'm not. I could write you a little ditty about how you shouldn't care what other people think about you, but I overthink every text I send and every facial expression I make. I could tell you that I'm so grown and mature, but I accidentally hit my sister's car when I was backing out of the driveway last week. See, I'm a walking contradiction, an anxious mess, and a ridiculously forgetful person. I am cranky in the mornings, irritable before my coffee, and obsessed with things that don't matter.

But I'm trying. I want to be at peace and I have no idea how much time it will take to get there. But, I'm the closest I've been in a long time. I'm beginning to understand the separation between love and obligation, between empathy and being a doormat, between self-awareness and self-destruction. Sunsets have been nice lately. Maybe that's all I need.

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