Thursday, December 1, 2016

17 changes I hope to make in 2017

2016 has been an interesting, challenging and unexpected year for me. And given the events of last year, it has been significantly better and more rewarding. I healed radically and completely from the deepest sorrow I've ever known. I started to see people, places and things outside of my selfish and cloudy little bubble. I asked for help when I was drowning. I fell in love for possibly and hopefully the last time. I made a life-changing decision and stared back when fear tried to stare me down.

But of course, it's been far from perfect. I have a lot on my plate right now, and more often than not, I feel more compelled to curl up in a ball and go to sleep than begin sorting through it all. I've put important projects and responsibilities on the top shelf, but even though they are out of sight, they are not out of mind. They still exist. They still need to be acknowledged. I've been dealing with some harsh and bewildering conflict in my personal life, and I don't even know where to begin making things right --- or at least making things peaceful and bearable.

At times, I've glimpsed the person I want to become, and at others, I've lost sight of her completely. I've succeeded in some areas and failed in others. But I wake up every day, show up every day, and try every day.

I want next year to be different. In a positive way. In a way that challenges me, breaks me, heals me, and rebuilds me. In a way that teaches me how to be 25 years old.

Here are 17 changes I hope to make in 2017. How about you?

1. My reaction to conflict

I'm not always under attack.

2. The frequency in which I count my blessings

I used to count my blessings every single day, and I was so much happier and calmer because of it. What happened?

3. The way I treat myself

My feelings are worthy, my thoughts are misleading, my goals are valid, and my moments of happiness are deserved.

4. The way I treat my loved ones

I only have a handful of people in my life who care deeply enough about me to keep in touch, prioritize my well-being, and put up with my crap. They deserve the royal treatment every day of their lives.

5. My level of freedom

I'm a grown ass woman, and I can do what I want.

6. My level of fear

Fear is not my friend. Fear is not my friend. Fear is not my friend.

7. My attention to self-care

I'm stuck with myself for the rest of my life, so I better start going to the doctor, eating healthier, drinking more water, and keeping track of my moods and thought patterns.

8. My living situation

Remember that scene from Boy Meets World where Mr. Feeny was telling Cory about moving a flower from a small pot in his living room to his garden? Why? Because if he didn't, he feared it would stop growing. Well, I'm that flower. And it's time for me to find a new home.

9. My inclination to please others

I've disappointed and confused people my whole life, so why bother?

10. My relationship patterns and beliefs 

I may drown in my insecurities, have a history of pain and disappointment, be the poster child for abandonment issues, and believe that I am perpetually unworthy of love, but the relationship I have right now is far too precious and rare to screw up. So I have some serious, serious work to do.

11. My aversion to adulting

It's time. It's time to adult.

12. My level of writing productivity

I must start writing every day again. No exceptions, no excuses.

13. My professional life in general 

I hope to achieve some semblance of professional and financial comfort and happiness next year. I don't ever want to feel stuck or uninspired. (Or broke as hell.)

14. The amount of time I spend online

It's astonishing how much life gets sucked away from you while you're staring at a computer or phone screen for hours every day. I want to cut back and see what happens, for I strongly suspect it will be all good things.  

15. The amount of time I spend procrastinating

It's getting quite ridiculous.

16. My negative assumptions

Can I get an amen from literally everyone who knows me?

17. My overall life balance

Balance is still and will always be everything. If I'm not careful, I might give way too much attention to one thing and not nearly enough to another. And I can say from experience that the results of that can be tragic.

<3 Madison                    

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Baby steps

I took a walk around my backyard the other night --- the yard I've called home for more than two decades, the yard where I've played and grown, the yard where I've seen sunsets and stars, the yard where my past dances around me and my future whispers my name.

I walked slowly and deliberately. I felt the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet and became absorbed in the way the sky turned from a soft pink to a midnight blue. I breathed in the memories of the land and breathed out the wisdom of the wind.

I don't know much of anything right now, but I do know this:

I must put one foot in front of the other. I must pay attention to the things I love and how quickly time can take them away. I must look forward to where I'm going, yet never forget where I came from. I must be grateful for every step I take, even if it's a misstep. I must always remember that everything happens for a reason, even if I don't understand it. I must say hello without forgetting to say goodbye.

I love this backyard with every fiber of my being. 

But there's a world and a future on the other side of it.

<3 Madison  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 14)

~ There are two sides to every story, and only you can know the real truth if you were the one who experienced it. If other people don't believe you, that's their problem. If other people misunderstand the situation, that's also their problem. Take comfort in the fact that YOU know the truth, even if other people don't. I'd like to believe that the truth always comes out either way.

~ I believe in karma. And I believe it is unbiased.

~ I don't think you truly realize the value of a real, solid relationship until you're in one. They have a way of making you look back on all the crap you put up with before and wonder why you spent a single minute of your life putting up with it. I currently have someone who thinks I'm the sun. I'll never settle for less than that again, and neither should you. You're fantastic and rare, and you deserve someone who doesn't treat you like you're anything less.

~ Four months ago, I found myself anxiously wondering if I would ever heal from an experience that broke me down to an unimaginable degree. And guess what? I did heal. I healed so much that that part of my life feels like somebody else's. Like I watched and vaguely remember somebody else experiencing it rather than experiencing it myself. You will get to that point in your own journey as well. So be patient, be gentle, and have faith. Have SO much faith.

~ Listen to what other people have to say, but always take it with a grain of salt. The best wisdom you will ever receive can only come from within.

~ Deciding whether or not to cut someone out of your life is a deeply personal decision. Consider the consequences before you do it.

~ The desire to genuinely work on and improve yourself should be applauded in a world full of the desire for familiarity and blissful ignorance.

~ It's okay to pause before you leap and cry before you cheer.

~ Things in your life may change, but your attitudes and beliefs don't have to change with them.

~ Breathe. Take your time. Trust yourself.

<3 Madison  

Monday, September 19, 2016

One month sober

It's been one month since I last spoke to you. One month since you messaged me at 3 o'clock in the morning with intentions I will never understand. 

It's been one month since I gave my broken heart to somebody else, somebody unexpected, somebody who deserves to have it. One month since he immediately got to work putting it back together piece by piece and cherishing it like you once said you would. 

It's been one month since I finally found the courage to tell you that my happiness was more important than you. One month since you finally found the decency to respect that happiness. 

It's been one month since I realized you were more of a poison than a fix. One month since I realized my ability to breathe, laugh and live again. 

It's been one month since you left me for good. Maybe out of mercy. Maybe out of spite. It's been one month since I let you go without putting up a fight.

I thought I couldn't live without you, but maybe I can. Maybe I can do it for another month. And another. And another.

I must.

<3 Madison   

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My official website

Hey guys! Guess what?!

After years of toying with and dreaming about the idea of investing in my very own Internet hub, I finally have my very own Internet hub! An official website. A fancy website. A comprehensive website. And I couldn't be more excited about sharing it with you.

No worries though - I'm not going anywhere. This is only the beginning.

<3 Madison  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I hope you meet someone.

"You're going to meet someone wonderful someday," they said. "Someone who will make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else." 

Nearly everyone around me already had someone. The pains and frustrations of modern dating were shouting in my face. All the good guys appeared to be taken. The one person who held my heart handled it just irresponsibly enough to make me believe that maybe, just maybe he wasn't trying to be irresponsible with it at all. 

I couldn't grasp the concept of finding someone who thought I was fantastic and worth making an effort for. I couldn't believe in it. I couldn't see it. And so I drove down dead end roads and held on to things that made me bleed and settled for less and ultimately realized that I needed myself far more than I would ever need another person. 

And that's when I met someone wonderful. That's when I met someone who made me realize why it never worked out with anyone else. 

All I can say is that you won't believe in it until it happens.

So I hope you meet someone.

I hope you meet someone who makes flowers out of napkins and magic out of normalcy.
I hope you meet someone who remembers every little thing you tell them about yourself.
I hope you meet someone who notices, observes, listens, and asks questions.
I hope you meet someone who texts you back. 
I hope you meet someone who respects your boundaries and takes their time.
I hope you meet someone who never makes you question your worth.
I hope you meet someone who makes your happiness and comfort a priority.
I hope you meet someone who loves the sound of your laughter as much as you do.
I hope you meet someone who openly celebrates when you hold their hand or tell them your secrets.
I hope you meet someone who hugs your mother and opens the car door for you.
I hope you meet someone who is spontaneous and endearing.
I hope you meet someone who surprises and shocks you on a daily basis.
I hope you meet someone who thinks of you first thing in the morning and all day long.
I hope you meet someone who makes your stomach drop and your heart soar.

But most of all and more than anything else, I hope you meet someone who finally gives you a promising glimpse of what you really deserve. And makes you realize that whatever you had before was anything but.  

<3 Madison      

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A welcome note to sadness

Hello again.

I know it's pretty normal and expected for me to fall apart whenever you pay me a visit these days. You fill my chest, steal the smile from my face, create realities that aren't there, and eventually send me to bed with a weight on my shoulders and a sharpness in my heart. I crumbled beneath you every single time you even threatened to appear.

For months, you were the only thing I knew. I would've given anything to make you go away and finally let me reconnect with the person I was before you permeated my being.

I resisted you. I fought against you. I told myself you couldn't hurt me, even though you did just that.

But the other night, I felt something different when you stopped by.

Peace. Acceptance. A harmonious sense of familiarity.

And as I soaked up this new feeling, your severity began to subside. I almost immediately went from fearing I would crumble again to standing up even straighter and embracing you in a way I never had before. I saw you for what you were - a reminder of my strength and resilience. A wound I lived through and healed from, even though I didn't believe I would at times. A piece of my story, which is important. A piece of my past, which is not. A beacon of hope and light for my future, which is already looking better than I ever imagined.

So here's what I'd like to say to you now:

I see you. I welcome you. I accept you wholeheartedly. And I thank you for teaching me to find the light in all the places I failed to look while I was too busy telling myself you shouldn't exist.  

<3 Madison      

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Happiness in a bottle

I, like most people I'm sure, wish I could somehow bottle happiness and soak in it during times of grief, stress and anxiety. I'm not referring to the kind of happiness that is exponential or based off of a major source of joy or success, but the kind of happiness that is full of peaceful acceptance, quiet contentment, and a healthy dose of hope and excitement.

I was at work the other night when I briefly experienced this kind of happiness. It's not that anything major happened. I was simply having a good day. I was getting along with my co-workers and customers. I made good money. Things were going well in my life in general. And when I got home, my face was actually sore from smiling so much. It was just one of those days, and I remember my efforts to soak up that feeling for all it was worth - my desire to bottle it up and keep it for the days of fear, uncertainty and sadness.

Unfortunately, I had one of those days the very next day upon finding out something that broke my heart wide open - of course, after I so carefully and painstakingly put it back together recently. I numbed myself to the information, refusing to ask too many questions or let it sink in too much. But when I woke up at the break of dawn the next morning with the reality that it wasn't just a dream and I couldn't change a thing about it, I cried for an hour. Bitterly. Fearfully. Pitifully.

It's strange to me how we can feel so happy one day and so devastated the next. It almost seems wholly unfair, as if life is simply unwilling to give us a break and let sleeping dogs lie.

So in the wake of my latest source of unease and heartbreak, I found myself wishing I had that happiness in a bottle even more. (Please spare the Xanax and Vodka jokes.)

I just want to bottle the type of feeling I get upon receiving wonderful news. The type of feeling I get in the presence of someone I love or feel attracted to. The type of feeling I get when I wake up and remember that I have little to do, thus leading to the realization that I can do whatever I want. The type of feeling I get when someone makes me laugh out loud. The type of feeling I get when things run smoothly and problems work themselves out. The type of feeling I get when I'm lost in the world of a good book or a captivating movie. The type of feeling I get when I know I've done something well, correctly or brilliantly. The type of feeling I get when I hear from someone I haven't spoken to in awhile. The type of feeling I get when I'm in a new and exciting environment. The type of feeling I get when life is on my side and pain keeps its distance.

But I can't. I can't put happiness in a bottle.

So instead, I'm choosing to change what I reasonably can and accept what I reasonably cannot. I'm choosing to live in the moment instead of dreading the future. I'm choosing to take my life and solve my problems one step at a time. I'm choosing to let go and set myself free from self-inflicted stress. I'm choosing to focus on my own life instead of worrying about everyone else's. I'm choosing to do everything I can to keep hope and happiness alive, no matter what life throws at me. 

And I suppose that's the closest I'll ever get to having happiness in a bottle. But if you ask me, it's a whole lot better than nothing.

<3 Madison    

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 13)

~ I haven't written a "miscellaneous thoughts" post in ages. It's good to be back.

~ Try not to regret investing in your health. It's outrageous and unfair that sick people have to deal with financial stress on top of being sick, but an investment in your health and well-being will always be a worthy investment.

~ Also, don't regret what you create. Your creative contribution is an important part of your story and who you are.

~ Progress is never linear. Healing takes time. Growth takes failure.

~ Pain ends. And you will be tough as nails when it does.

~ If you're doing your best, you're doing enough.

~ I'm starting to realize that romantic love is pretty subordinate in comparison to all the other types of love you can have in your life. When you have romantic love, it's all-consuming and feels like the most important type of love there is. But when you lose it, you find love in so many other places. Within yourself, in the presence of family and friends, in the little moments that make life more bearable, and in the little reminders that you're not alone after all. You can still be in love without being in love.

~ Closure is overrated. Just let go and know that you deserve to be happy and free. That should be closure enough.

~ There's no shame in having a day job while you do something you love on the side. Just don't let the day job eat up all your time and passion. Remember why you have it in the first place.

~ Feeling things deeply is not a flaw. It's a character trait that more people should possess in this narcissistic, mean, and crazy ass world.

~ Be nice to your parents. They mean well. (There are obvious exceptions to this, so don't take my word for it if your parents are assholes.)

~ Take your medicine, eat at least three meals a day, give yourself a break when you're tired, and don't let other people tell you how to feel.    

<3 Madison

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The trouble with instant gratification

I constantly crave instant gratification, which is a very common issue in society. We want what we want, and we want it as soon as possible. And we often end up taking the worst possible paths to get it.

Selfishness. Entitlement. Manipulation. Impulsiveness. Cheating. Lying. Self-destruction.

I've resorted to nearly all of the above at one time or another. All because I was too impatient to be patient and too consumed by the hard parts to focus on the forthcoming good parts. I wanted instant gratification. I wanted results. I wanted a straight and easy path to healing, success, personal gain - whatever I was after at the time.

But here's the thing: Being patient and doing the messy, less than pleasant work of achieving or acquiring what you hope to achieve or acquire is really, really, really, really hard. 

Progress takes time, work, and a lot of steps in the wrong direction. I'm learning and re-learning that there's no magic formula, no grand answer, and no obstacle-free path to success and happiness - or anything else for that matter. You can't push people out of the way. You can't resist what needs to happen just because it's not happening the way you wish it would happen. And you can't avoid the truth. You can't avoid what is waiting to be discovered.

I feel like I'm climbing a mountain in 90 degree heat, guys. I'm so tired. I'm so overwhelmed. I'm so thirsty. I have cuts and bruises all over me. When I stop to rest, I feel both grateful for the stillness and panicked that I'll never reach the top, never see the view, never bask in the sunlight of victory and growth. And that's when the familiar urge for instant gratification creeps in, begging me to find a short cut where there isn't one or encouraging me to quit altogether when I've already come so far.

It's so challenging. I have days where all the fight has left my body and all I can do is cry. But for every day I don't believe I can make it, I have a day where I manage to find my innermost strength and willingness to try really damn hard anyway.

What I'm ultimately trying to say is this:

I know your journey isn't always easy, and I know the search for instant gratification is tempting. Love hurts, money is scarce, amazing opportunities are difficult to come by, we live amongst a chaotic sea of questions with only little islands of answers scattered here and there, and personal struggles have a cruel way of haunting us, no matter how much progress we made yesterday, last week, last month, or last year.

But hang in there. If it's hard, you're doing it right. If it hurts, it's working. If you're taking the long way, you're on the right path.

<3 Madison    

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

5 years

Four days ago, my blog turned 5 years old. (Here's my very first post. What a THROWBACK.)

I never imagined how much of an impact such a seemingly simple decision would have on my life. I started this blog tentatively and with a bit of fear that I would get bored or impatient with it before I had a chance to build up a readership. But I never gave up on it. At one point, it was one of the only things I really loved and felt connected to. It became a sort of passion project for me and has led to so many incredible opportunities.

Radical healing. Work and networking opportunities. A loyal and loving community of personal growth enthusiasts. A romantic relationship with a reader (that didn't end super well, but still). Lasting, invaluable friendships with wonderful people. A book idea.

When I think about it all, my heart feels so full. I'm reminded that trusting yourself, no matter what anyone thinks, is one of the absolute best things you can do. What started as journaling turned into a passion of being vulnerable and sharing my voice with the masses. And I've experienced nothing but goodness ever since.

Everyone has a path, and this is mine. I can honestly never thank you enough for loving what I have to say, hurting alongside me, encouraging me when I'm weak, and sticking around all these years. I couldn't have done any of this without you.

<3 Madison

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Do you like books?

Would it be crazy if I wrote one? Just for you?

Do with that notion what you will. Because I really love you for listening to me for the last 5 years.

<3 Madison

Monday, June 6, 2016

Friendly reminder: You're human, not damaged

I'll come right out with it: Yesterday was a bit shitty through no fault of anyone in particular. It was just one of those blah days where I cried in the bathroom for an hour and then stayed up until 1am watching Hulu before dragging my sorry self to bed. I woke up this morning with leftover remnants of shittiness in my bloodstream and actually began to punish myself for that, thus making matters even worse.

I meant every word of my last post and have been riding that wave of peace for the last couple of weeks. But last night, I felt like I was losing it. I felt like it was coming to an end, and I would revert back to the dark place I was in, unable to claw my way out. This assumption was false.

I just had a bad night and a bad morning. And I will have more. 

For as long as we live, we will have bad days. We will struggle - mostly with things we thought we were done struggling with. You're not broken or damaged if you experience a setback or forget how to recapture a moment or feeling that temporarily showed you a greater version of yourself. That version of you is still in there, but sometimes it needs a break. Being happy all the time is exhausting, because happiness takes work. Real, honest, conscious work. And sometimes we just need to allow ourselves to be okay with sadness, suckiness, anxiety, failure, and all the other unpleasant experiences of being alive

I will be okay, and you will be okay. We're all human, and all humans suffer.

Real peace comes from recognizing and embracing your current state of mind, no matter what it is. So if today sucks a little, so be it. Maybe, just maybe tomorrow will be good again.

<3 Madison  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Looking up

I don't have very much to say today, but I feel compelled to say this:

I feel like things are looking up. I've been in a lot of pain and have made a lot of mistakes lately, but for reasons I haven't figured out yet, I feel like a changed person. 

This isn't a fleeting state of the union. I'm not on happy drugs. I wasn't temporarily inspired by a quote or article I won't even remember tomorrow. I truly, deeply, honestly, and undeniably feel as though I've just shed a bruised and festering coat for a shiny and relatively unscathed one. All the memories are there, but all the markings are gone. I'm ready to start fresh.

Within this week alone, I did all of the following things:

I spent time with someone I've carelessly overlooked a bit in recent weeks, and I had the wonderful, mindful time that I should have. I did something I've been putting off and making excuses not to do for the past 6 years. (Yes, years.) I let go of something I thought I couldn't live without. I spoke up about important things and was met with pure triumph. An issue that caused me burning and unbearable anxiety for months didn't cause me any anxiety at all. I am so happy, even though I have so little reason to be. I just am. I'm just happy to see myself like this.

First steps are amazing. But following through is even better.

<3 Madison   

Monday, May 2, 2016

5 questions to ask yourself this May

The fact that it's May already has me feeling a bit anxious and reflective. This specific time of year always makes me think about the rapid passage of time - even more so than my birthday or New Year's Eve. Maybe it's because I realize that the year is almost half over, even though it feels like it's barely started. Maybe it's because the flowers are blooming while I remain in a bud. Maybe it's because big changes always seem to happen in the spring (and fall).

Whatever the reason, I'm more focused on trying to get my life together than I've been in months, if not years. I feel the pressure. I feel the burn. And I wish I could say I feel the passion and motivation, but those two are a bit more fleeting.

All of that said, I think it's good to feel scared and to feel the pressure a little. It means you're able to recognize that something in your life isn't quite right and that you're not making the most of the fleeting amount of time you have. If we're not careful, we'll blink and find ourselves living a small or unsatisfying life a decade from now. We only have so many tomorrows, so many months, so many years.

If you share these slight feelings of May panic and uncertainty, I invite you to ask yourself the following questions with me.

1. How do I feel when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed at night?

Track your thoughts and emotions for a week or two if necessary.

2. What are my top ten priorities?

Be honest with yourself. I can almost guarantee you have things on that list that shouldn't be there.

3. What makes me happy?

Make room for what makes you happy. MAKE ROOM FOR IT.

4. Am I taking care of myself?

Spoiler alert: My answer to this is a resounding "NOPE." Points for self-awareness?

5. On a scale of one to ten, how strong is my support system?

You can't fight your way through the suckiness of life on your own, no matter what society says. Reach out. Spend time with people who care about and encourage you. Talk about things.

Let's try to end 2016 with a bang.

<3 Madison   

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's okay to be a late bloomer.

(The following post was submitted and declined on another website, so I'm publishing it here instead. Weeee, creative control!)


There are so many things I'd love to shout from the rooftops for all teens and young adults to hear, but if there's one thing that especially hits home for me, it's this:

It's okay to be a late bloomer.

You are going to encounter many moments of feeling hopelessly behind in life. You are going to compare yourself to other people in your age group and feel tempted to treat life as a contest or a finish line you have to pass in order to achieve happiness and success. You are going to feel anxious, depressed, ashamed, and find more questions than answers about the path that lies ahead of you. And believe it or not, that's okay. That's normal.

I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that everything is going to be okay. I wish I could tell her that it's actually pretty weird to be engaged, married, a parent, or a homeowner before the age of 25. (Hell, maybe even a little after that age.) I wish I could tell her that growing up sucks and she still has plenty more years to be acceptably young and confused.

I wish I could tell her that she will reach little milestones in life in her own time and in ways that are unforgettable. Her first kiss won't be with a boy who hasn't sprouted leg hair yet or the asshole she was infatuated with in high school for some reason. It will be loving, memorable, adorable, a little awkward, and worth every second of the wait. She will experience first love and loss with a best friend who will always care about her, not some guy who tossed her cheesy pick-up lines and tried to get into her pants before getting into her heart. She won't get her driver's license when all the high school beauty queens with rich dads get theirs. She will get it at the same age Carey Mulligan got hers, and one of her best friends will be there to witness the long-awaited triumph. She will spend the first few years out of high school being a badass writer with her name published all over the Internet and then get her first service industry job when her skin has thickened enough to deal with hangry people and grumpy co-workers. And she will have a positive attitude and work hard because having her own money will be more of a priority. She will grow up slowly, but be told on multiple occasions that she's wise beyond her years.

Sometimes life comes to us slowly and in smaller, unexpected doses. Time is a thief, and we spend too much of it worrying about things that don't matter. It doesn't matter who gets married or pops out a baby first. It doesn't matter who finishes college or lands a dream job that actually pays the bills first. It doesn't matter who falls in love or has sex first. These things happen when they happen. Some people peak early, and some people peak late. It's just life, and no one makes it out alive anyway.

While moving forward will always be important, you don't have to rush. Set simple and achievable goals that will lead to the bigger and more life-changing goals. Ask questions. Forge professional and creative relationships. Learn as much as you possibly can. Stay in touch with yourself, and know that it's okay to change paths, even when the one you're on is all you've ever known. Wake up every morning and consciously decide to put one foot in front of the other.

It's okay to be a late bloomer – as long as you choose to bloom at all.

<3 Madison 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Why you should never burn bridges and build walls

This topic has been heavy on my heart lately, and I can only hope that I say something that reaches you before it's potentially too late.

Don't burn your bridges.

Don't cut people off, push people away, or believe that you don't need old friends, lovers, family members or employers anymore. I'm so notorious for this. I see it as an exercise in leaving the past in the past and moving forward in the only way I know how. And in the moment, I believe I'm doing what's best for me. But I've missed so many opportunities and connections. I've abandoned so many homes I fear I'll never be able to return to.

A few examples:

1. I had a terrible falling out with a very good friend soon after high school. We wreaked havoc upon each other and became living, breathing definitions of bridge burners. That was 6 years ago. I have no hard feelings whatsoever, but we're strangers now. Her current life couldn't be more different from the life she had when we were in high school. She's married. She has a good career and a nice apartment. She's pregnant. Things will never, ever be the same between us, even if we do reconnect.

2. I pretty much poisoned some of my closest friends against the first person who broke my heart. I told them everything, including things that were probably none of their business. I wanted to make sure they knew how much pain I was in. I wanted to make sure they didn't let me go back to him. I wanted to make sure I didn't go back to him. I concluded that he would never be a part of the lives of the people around me anyway, so why the hell not? Well, since healing tremendously and rekindling the wonderful friendship we had prior to our brief romance, that person has become one of my best friends in the entire world - someone I love and respect deeply. Although we may never be romantically involved again, I actually love the idea of him someday being acquainted with some of my friends or feeling like a small part of my family. Too bad everyone thinks he's a jerk.

3. After losing the first freelance job that paid pretty well and really put my ass to work every day of the week, the client I worked for tried to help me find another job within the company. I turned down every offer (with good reason), but still expected her to stay in touch until something clicked. She didn't. I tried reaching out to her during a horribly dry spell of unemployment a couple of years ago, and I didn't hear back. She could've helped keep the ball rolling for me if I had simply stayed in touch and given her something to work with. And she's not the only client I've lost touch with over the years either.

The lesson: You never know what will become of a person's role in your life and heart. You might be angry at someone now, but find yourself wanting to call them in the midst of a difficult or stressful situation later. You may think you'll never work with someone again and later realize that they may be your ticket to a major work opportunity. You may think a friendship or relationship is over and then discover that maybe it never really was.

Whatever the case, you can't see the future. You NEVER know how involved certain people will be in your life later on down the road. So keep them within reach. There are clear and obvious exceptions to this rule, as is the case with every rule, but more often than not, your feelings towards people are fleeting. Anger passes. Pain heals. Indifference evolves.

Build bridges. Don't burn them.

<3 Madison

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I've never loved myself.

A small series of seemingly insignificant moments led me to a bleak and unsettling realization last night: I've never truly loved myself.

I've loved almost everything but myself. I've poured my heart and soul into friendships, relationships, writing, other people's dreams, and relatively unextraordinary activities, but at the end of the day, it feels like cooking a bunch of food and giving it all away without saving a single morsel for myself. I feel perpetually lost and empty and perpetually confused as to why I can't cultivate this elusive self-love everyone speaks of. I've had brief moments of what appeared to be self-love, but it's never real. Love is powerful, lasting, and all-encompassing. It never truly goes away, whether it burns as bright as a flame or as dull as a lantern in the dark. Loving something on a part-time or occasional basis isn't love. Therefore, I can't say I've experienced truly radical self-love. The kind that helps me move on from what doesn't serve me and inspires me to live a stimulating and authentic life that doesn't involve working, sleeping, Interneting, and simply trying to get by.

I always seek to love things that can love me back. When I receive love, attention or validation from another source, I feel an incredibly warm sense of content. But it's fleeting because those sources can only give me so much. Nothing and no one realistically has the capacity to complete me or live a fulfilling life for me. I can't be at the top of anyone's priority list except my own, and I don't know how to get there.

When I fell in love for the first time, it felt like the most beautiful thing in the world. He filled all my empty spaces and bandaged all my wounds, but it was all temporary. He couldn't fix me. He couldn't wrap my problems in a pretty bow. So when it ended, I was right back where I started - wounds and all. And I blamed him. He hurt me. He couldn't accept the love I was willing to give. He abandoned me.

Being loved by him made it easier for me to avoid the work of loving myself. It took me months and months to realize this from a place of awareness and gratitude. It took me months to realize that it couldn't have ended any other way. You have to lose what you love over and over and over again before you realize that the missing piece of the puzzle is you and what you're depriving yourself of.

And yet, I continue giving all my love and all of myself to other people. To other people's lives. To art, music, long drives, to-do lists, my dog...All in hopes that somewhere along the way, I'll find what I need. But I'm afraid I won't find it like this.

<3 Madison

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

10 word stories that are all connected

So I recently discovered a creative writing/poetry phenomenon known as 10 word stories.

Armed with inspiration, leftover remnants of a heart I've been struggling to heal, and the fact that my emotions can sometimes be summed up in only a few short words these days anyway, I decided to write some of my own. And although it slightly deviates from the type of content I usually tend to publish here, I'd like to share what I came up with. If you pay close attention, you'll notice that each of these stories is merely a chapter of a much larger one.

1. You bid on my heart with no intention of paying.

2. I wore a grin made of hope and reckless abandon.

3. You pushed me away, but I didn't want to leave.

4. Red flags decorated my mind, but flowers decorated my heart.

5. I fell for you the way leaves fall in autumn.

6. When nothing in my life made sense, you somehow did.

7. You placed me on a pedestal. I called it home.

8. We had a remarkable love that was doomed all along.

9. Your eyes tell a million stories. Your hands create magic.

10. You broke me slowly, and I begged you to stop.

11. You gave up on something you may never find again.

12. "You might break my patterns," you said. But I can't.

13. You found a female version of yourself. That's pretty boring.

14. Is her love for you the same color as mine?

15. I unsuccessfully tried to shove somebody else in your place.

16. I thought I had nothing to lose, but I did.  

17. I've cried enough tears to fill wells and grow trees.

18. I always believed I was strong. Then I met you.

19. Time drags like the love you weren't ready to cherish.

20. Perhaps I miss being yours more than I miss you.

<3 Madison

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New chapter, fresh start

I mentioned in my last post that I was thinking of ditching freelance work (aka ditching the relatively unsuccessful process of taking random, fleeting jobs with blogs, clients and publications that change their minds and objectives like the weather) and finding something steadier and more rewarding within the incredibly competitive publishing industry. I'm thinking editor or staff writer for a successful website or magazine. Regular contributor for a publication that has loyal readers. Writer of my very own column. Something of that ilk. I know people and have friends who primarily write for ONE publication and earn either their entire living or a big chunk of their living off of it. In a nutshell, that's ultimately what I want.

And after years of never quite being able to answer simple questions about the kind of writer I am or want to become, it's such a relief to be able to somewhat identify what I want. 

But I realized that in order to re-invent myself as a writer, I need to start fresh. I need a clean slate.

Freelancing has left me feeling a bit frustrated and unfulfilled lately. I'm tired of scrounging for work and constantly getting laid off. I'm tired of juggling (or feeling obligated to juggle) several writing jobs at once. Ever since I started my job at Waffle House, I've been trying my best to achieve some balance in my life. When I'm not cleaning bathrooms, refilling coffee mugs, scrubbing cheese and eggs off plates, and asking people if they want anything in their hashbrowns, I really value rest, time with loved ones, and writing that feels therapeutic, meaningful, and more up my alley. I don't really want to "work" when I'm not working, which has led me further and further towards the kind of writing that doesn't FEEL like work to me.

I'm not even vaguely suggesting that being a writer isn't hard work and that being a successful one won't take blood, sweat and tears. I'm just saying that my motivation to write about things I don't want to write about and my motivation to juggle handfuls of underpaying and tedious jobs is lacking these days. I want passion. I want drive. I want singular, specific goals to set my sights upon. Otherwise, I won't write. And I think we can all agree that that would be tragic.

So here's what I've been up to lately and what I plan to be up to in months to come:

I recently started writing for Thought Catalog, an intriguing and slightly controversial website that you've probably already heard of if you like the Internet as much as I do. It's a wonderful platform for writers to get their most authentic work out there, and I've been lucky enough to befriend one of the staff writers/producers. I submit my articles to her directly, and she generally gets them posted to the site within 24 hours, even though most new posts take up to two weeks to get published (if they get published at all). Some of my work has been shared on the homepage, as well as the official Facebook page. Only a handful of articles make it that far. I was browsing the Facebook comments on my most recent article last night and was brought to tears with the way it was being passed around. Over a dozen people had tagged friends in their comments, urging them to read and feel inspired by my post (which was an open letter to everyone with a broken heart). In addition to all the sharing, it had nearly half a thousand likes. I'm very new to this platform and have submitted some of the most personal and revealing pieces I've ever dared to write in my life, but I already feel like I've found a home there. I come up with new ideas regularly and hope to someday become a prime contributor, if not a full on staff writer. I will include a link to my Thought Catalog page in my shameless self-promotion corner if you would like to see what I've been working on over there. Time and inspiration will tell if I stick with it!

I've been catching up on my book. I got horribly, horribly behind on it when I started working at Waffle House during their busiest time of year. I worked some crazy hours, and when I wasn't working, I was pretty much sleeping. My poor book suffered, but I'm so close to being caught up now that I can taste it. I don't know if this book will ever be published (hopefully it will!), but at this time, I mainly want to prove to myself that I can finish it. When I do, we'll take it from there.

I want to reconnect with the person I was when I FIRST started writing. I like her goals. I like her values. I like her passion. I like how she started a blog and submitted guest posts to her favorite websites simply because she wanted to. She chose passion over money and joy over stress. I'm trying to be her again, which is precisely why I'm starting over.

I created an official Facebook page for myself, something that seemed a little easier than launching a website. I'm hoping to keep it adequately updated in the coming months as I continue to get published, make progress on my book, and reach other writery (not a word) milestones. Please, PLEASE like me. 

Finally, I am hoping to get my name in print a little more often, which means I will try not to suck at submitting new stories to places like Chicken Soup for the Soul. I will try not to suck at actually reading the creative writing newsletters and calls for submissions that are delivered to my inbox on a golden platter and eagerly await my eyes on webpages I have bookmarked.

I hope you will join me on this journey of re-inventing myself as a writer! And hey, maybe this means I'll actually start blogging more.

<3 Madison      

Friday, January 22, 2016

Family vs. career

So I was on a date the other night (please hold the applause) when my handsome companion and I ventured over to the daunting subject of family vs. career when you live in a place that makes it hard to have both. I disclosed my hopes of ditching freelance work entirely and eventually finding a steady editorial or staff writing position of sorts, and he empathized with how difficult it is to achieve that where we live. Although I don't want to announce where I live on the Internet, I will say it's a relatively small and uneventful town. If you're not a doctor or a lawyer or someone who works for one, it's rare to be considered too much of a big shot. While I'm certainly not saying it's impossible to achieve my goal of being a successful writer and still live near my family, there's no denying that it will indeed be tricky. To be honest, I'm not sure where to begin.

I've always known that people like me belong in places like New York or Chicago. I know I could find countless opportunities to be the kind of writer I want to be in a bigger city with bigger publishing demands. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to be an in-office writer for a popular website for millennials dangled in front of me. Yes, they were based in New York. I wasn't given a solid job offer, mind you, but I was told that IF I lived in New York, I was free to apply. I was even given a list of requirements for the job, and it didn't sound hard at all. Following that experience, I pretty much had an existential crisis for about a week.

Over the last year, my family has really made its way towards the top of my priority list. A plethora of different events cultivated this, but after years of feeling depressed, abandoned and alone, being surrounded by loved ones is all I really want. The thought of living in a tiny apartment in a big city where no one cares about me makes me feel quite miserable. I could never do it. My desire for love will always come before my desire for money, and my desire for happiness will always come before my desire for success. I've had this discussion with many more before my handsome companion, and they all empathize. They all think I should leave this town without looking back and go where the writers go, but at the same time, they all project the overall sentiment of, "But it would sure be lonely, and we sure would miss you."

My older brother recently landed a job closer to home, and he and my sister-in-law are so excited about moving back that it almost makes me emotional. It's been so challenging for them to live away from family and friends as of late, and they don't even live that far --- a couple of hours. But they don't want to make a trip out of every visit. They want to go to more family gatherings, accept invitations to hang out at the drop of a hat, make memories closer to home, and just BE HERE. And I get that. I totally get that because I want the same thing. But I don't know how to reach my writing goals when I don't have the resources and opportunities to do so. As they say, the struggle is real. That seems to be the 20-something motto these days. Many of my friends are in similar boats filled with big decisions and difficult compromises.

I guess this issue really boils down to what is most important to you. Some people will choose adventure and opportunity at the expense of family time, and others will choose the exact opposite. I wonder if there is a happy medium. And if there is, I wonder if I will ever find it.

Until then, I choose to believe that I can have my cake and eat it too. It's my cake after all.

<3 Madison