personal journey, Uncategorized

No More Rose Colored Glasses

It took me months to get to this point.

It took me months to finally realize.

It took me months to acknowledge my gut feelings and admit to myself that it happened again.

I was manipulated by another man. Again. This time by someone I fell in love with. This time, by someone I gave my everything to. This time, by someone who took…everything.

His words were well-crafted to begin with. And I like to think that it started out pure, with good intentions. That he genuinely liked me and that he wanted to get better. That he was working to improve himself and really hoped we’d be something in the long run.

Parroting my ideas, my movements. I should have seen it. I should’ve known better.

Things would happen and he’d say “how can you be so sure I’m not lying to you? How can you be so sure I’m not manipulating you? I could, you know. But I don’t ever want to hurt you, so I wouldn’t.”

And I took it as him talking about his insecurities. I took it as him opening up to me.

Gods, am I so stupid.

“I’m broken, Ember. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I’m going to end up hurting you like I do everyone else.”

“All of my exes are crazy. You’re the most put-together girl I’ve ever dated.”

“I’ve been through a lot, so I know I can be mean and abrasive sometimes. That’s just how I’ve learned to cope with everything I’ve dealt with.”

“I put you on a pedestal. You’re perfect, you know?”

I can’t believe I fell for it. I can’t believe I let another man subtly manipulate me for half a year. I can’t believe I fell for the pity party and the excuses. I can’t believe I made myself so small to please him and dimmed my own fire so he wouldn’t get upset that I had opinions and ideas.

I gave everything I had to him. I let him convince me to not have safe sex, something I’d proudly tell everyone I’d never do. I let him convince me to agree to move in together way too soon, because he got nervous and anxious when I said I wasn’t sure and he threatened to end the relationship. I let him convince me that my emotions were invalid and that I was too much. I let him convince me, even after we broke up, that I should be the one apologizing for his actions.

That my tears were a sign of weakness and something I should apologize for. That my anger is unfounded. That I’m constantly overreacting.

I remember googling “Is my boyfriend emotionally manipulative?” multiple times while we were together. I knew. I knew deep down that he wasn’t good for me. But I ignored it. I read the articles and found myself nodding along with this list and I just ignored it because “we were different”.

I still like to believe there is good in him. I still like to believe that he did love me, at one point. That he was genuinely afraid of falling for someone and didn’t know how to handle it. That he wasn’t aware of his own manipulation. That, sure, summer was great, but when we got back into the swing of “real life” he just checked out. That he didn’t mean it, and anything he did do that was manipulation was a survival tactic due to his previous trauma. 

I still find myself making excuses for him, every day. Even after I read some things that he said that cut me so deeply to my core that I know I will have trust issues and intimacy problems for the rest of my life because of it.

I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed that I constantly see the good in people. I’m ashamed that I fall for pretty words and silver tongues. I’m ashamed that my genuine want to help others can end in disaster.

I stare at myself in the mirror after realizing this. I am angry. I am angry at him and I am angry at myself. I am angry that I could let this happen… again. That I could be so naive as to let another man dictate my thoughts, feelings, and self-worth. That I gave myself over to this man. That I fell in love with this man. That I believed so eagerly and willingly every single thing he said to me.

And I’m absolutely terrified that I’ll one day find myself in this same position–this position I vowed to never be in after what happened with my close friend who I found out was emotionally abusive.

I’m terrified I haven’t learned and that I’ll never learn, and I will always seek out those who can use me.

No More Rose Colored Glasses.

-Ember Alis-

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personal journey, Uncategorized

Food is Sacred

I was working at the Deli early this morning. Everyone was cooking–including me. As the sun rose higher, the smells and sounds of cooking intensified–ginger, garlic, onion, lemongrass; sizzles, pops, and the distinct sound of boiling water filled the air. I took a minute to breathe and appreciate the array of colors that filled the air.

The way food can make a place feel more like home.

In those moments, it didn’t feel like I’d been working since seven A.M. It didn’t seem like I’d been walking around a cold, metal Deli counter. The kitchen became alive, and the scents brought me comfort.

Food is Sacred.

I cooked rice this morning. I’d never done it at the Deli, only at home, so I wasn’t sure what the method was for the enormous rice cooker we have. One of the older ladies who worked there was teaching me how. She told me I had to wash the rice first.

“Wash the rice..?” I asked, confused. She looked at me.

“Wash the rice,” she repeated. She had a quiet voice, and it was usually hard to hear her. I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly, so I didn’t say anything. She was perplexed.

“You’ve never washed rice before?”

I shook my head “no”, and she laughed a little. She took the pot of rice from my hands and set it under the sink. I watched as she filled it with water and stirred it with her hand.

“Most people here don’t know that you should wash it,” she said to me, still stirring. “My great grandmother used to work in a rice factory, and do you know what they do there?”

I shook my head “no,” again.

“They step on the rice! They walk all over it,” she laughed. “That’s why I always, always, always make sure to wash it before I cook.” She smiled at me through thick glasses, and I vowed that, from then on, I’d always remember to wash my rice.

Food is Sacred.

One of the ladies was cooking curry–my favorite curry, mind you. I’d never been there when she made it, and I always marveled at how delicious it was (and how I can never seem to replicate curry of any kind in my own kitchen). It being my last day, I decided to walk over to her and ask,


“What’s your secret to making good curry?”

And over the hum and dim of the oven and whirring of the fan, she whispered the secret to her famous curry in my ear, while also telling me never to tell anyone else. So I promised not to.

Food is Sacred.

I was working with my boss one morning and I asked her what her favorite dish was to make. She scoffed, and said that she never made anything that she makes at the Deli at home.

“What do you make, then?” I asked her.

She was chopping onions, so she didn’t quite look up at me when she answered.

“Food from my home country.”

A smile ran across her face.

“I made my grandchildren something for breakfast this morning. You wouldn’t know what it is, but it’s kind of like an elephant ear from Bulgaria.”

She finished chopping her onions, and left me wondering.

Food is Sacred.

It’s only after I left that I realized the importance food carries; our culture shapes what we eat. My coworker shared a piece of her ancestry when she whispered to me the secret of her curry. Crafting a family recipe is partaking in a ritual that’s been passed down for centuries. The meals we make carry their own stories, struggles, and heart.

A lot of the time we see food as just food. Something to give us nourishment, something to get us through the day. Rarely do we stop and think about how we got here; rarely do we remember the importance of a meal; rarely do we think about the various cultures and traditions that got a specific recipe on our plates. How many people shared their secrets and traditions in order to bring new flavor to a foreign country?

So the next time you sit down for a meal, take a breath and remember:

Food is Sacred.

-Ember Alis-

personal journey, Uncategorized

When You’re 21

“When you’re 21, I’m going to take you bar hopping.”

He smiled, eyes alight as we sat on the floor across from each other.

“Really?” I laughed, trying my best to hold on the bubbling pink drink in my left hand. My coordination was already way off.

“Really. All of us will go,” he turned and glanced at the girl to my right. “Right, Tori?”

“Of course!” she yelled, throwing a hand clumsily into the air. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

I took a swig of the sweet drink. At this point, I could barely taste the alcohol. I smiled back.

“I look forward to it.”

__________

It’s two years later. Tonight, I’m going out to a club with my friends. In my mind, I’m already there–dancing until dawn, drinking in the lights, and ordering my first legal alcoholic beverage. I can see myself smiling, twirling between other party-goers and laughing like an idiot. I can see myself nervously ordering my first drink, black X’s no longer painted on my hands as I move through the inebriated crowd.

There are people missing, though. Those who promised to be here for that right of passage. Those who held my hand through my freshman year of college. Those who I called “family” for a year and half.

Tonight, I remember the promises that were made back then. The understanding we once had that our group of friends would be forever. This unspoken agreement that each of us would be around for a defining moment of our lives. That our close bonds could stand the test of time. According to Adam, our lives had been determined by the fates already. We were destined to meet–meant to live and breathe and explore the world together for the rest of our lives. 

I think back before I leave today on the people that I’ve lost. The man who taught me magic, the woman who showed me the stars, the person who taught me about unapologetically being yourself, and the man who taught me what love is.

There are some I am glad to leave in the past. There are others I wish I could bring with me.

On this 21st birthday of mine, I remember how nothing lasts forever. That life is fleeting, and so are some of our relationships. That  we learn and grow and experience from each person we meet. And sometimes, the ending of our song together comes much quicker than we anticipated.

I raise my glass to those I have lost. I take a sip of my drink. It is bittersweet.

 

personal journey, Uncategorized

Coffee and Headphones

Dear readers: I’ve been going through a lot lately. While this might not necessarily be spirituality-related, writing out my thoughts is helping me heal. Sharing is cathartic. Eventually I’ll get back to posting more about my spiritual journey (I’ve got some awesome stuff lined up), but right now everything else is on the back burner while I try to pick up the pieces I lost of myself. Please be patient with me on this journey and thank you for listening. 

Here I am, sitting at That One Coffee Shop You Loved, at 11 pm drinking coffee while my friends go out and drink and dance at bars.

I’m staring at the spot we used to sit at. That last coffee date we took. You going through your training modules, me pretending to edit my video. You opened a tab and bought me coffee. I remember looking at you from across the table and catching your eye every once in a while, and you’d do that little smile. That smile just for me. That smile that said “we’re okay.”

There are two girls sitting in our normal spot tonight. They look like friends, studying for some sort of exam. They’re leaning over textbooks, occasionally glancing at each other and laughing. 

And I’m sitting here, drinking a mint latte and thinking of you. Wishing more than anything that you were here, across from me, right now. But you’re at work, and when you get out from it I’ll be giving back your stuff and you’ll be giving me back mine. Then, that’s it, right? The end. As soon as I hand you that small, plastic bag full of clothes you left behind that means it’s the end.

I won’t have a reason to talk to you. You won’t have a reason to respond to my messages.

I wonder if you miss me as much as I miss you. I was doing okay, you know. Before this week. Before I came here. Before I sat in this one, small coffee shop you introduced me to that you love. Before I talked to your best friend. Before I drove past your apartment complex on the way to my friend’s place.

I’m back at square one. I’m so fragile. I’m so lost. I’m listening to the same song on repeat, trying not to cry as I down a mint latte. I keep thinking about how pathetic I’m being. I can’t help but beat myself up about how ridiculously I’m acting and asking myself: why can’t I just bounce back like I normally do?

Then I remember that I can’t think things like that about myself. I need to give myself time to heal. It’s okay to be sad for a while.

I want to see you. Do you want to see me?

I glance around the room. Last time we were here, you told me about this one painting on the walls that you said really spoke to you. It was small and abstract, full of color and bright, vibrant images. There was something about it, though, that amidst all the color made the painting feel haunting. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I remember also thinking that it was beautiful. 

It’s not here anymore. They’ve switched out all the paintings since our last visit a month ago. 

Everything changes.

-Ember Alis-

Nature, personal journey

Letters from the Earth

I spent my summer in the great outdoors, battling with the heat and pesky mosquitos as a part of my job. Most moments were spent surrounded by nature and a fantastic group of people who loved the earth as much as I do. I loved, laughed, and cried–and learned so much more about myself in three short months than I had in an entire year.

Working at a summer camp meant I was busy from sunrise to past sunset. I was also in the midst of my first-ever romance, so I didn’t really get many opportunities to sit and breathe in the earth. But in those rare moments when I was able to sit still and just listen… well, I’ll just share some of the things I heard.

Here’s a collection of words I wrote while listening to the earth and my own thoughts.

Can you hear her?

If the ground could speak, would she tell you the stories of those who ran across her soil?

Ah, but she does speak, he says to me. You just have to listen.

Every indent is a tale told. Every broken twig is a battle. Every dusty path contains a song to be sung and a voice to praise.

Listen, little one.

Look, little one.

Press your ear against her chest.

She is breathing, can’t you hear?

The Edge

Who shall answer for me when I am at the edge?

No one, No one, the Abyss says.

I smile. Not true, I say.

I answer for myself.

Seek your own and you shall find the strength to speak.

In some minds silence can mean strength.

But not today, dear one.

Not today.

Myself

They say the universe is constantly expanding.

Let’s say I could reach my mind out into the edges of the universe.

If I could touch every star and reach the infinite, would I finally feel like myself?

Magic

I walked a path along the lake under a midnight sky. Fireflies lit our path as the stars guided us. And in a moment, I saw a shooting star, as bright and clear as the moon.

I was so overcome by the beauty and emotion of it all I cried. I laughed and I cried, and I felt like I was a part of the stars and they were a part of me, and that’s when I realized that I am as much a part of nature as it is a part of me. In that moment, I remember thinking–how could someone see this and not realize it’s magic? Our earth, our little blue planet, suspended in a galaxy larger that I can even comprehend is living, breathing, and creating the most wondrous, magnificent art in the known universe.

We are not alone.

-Ember Alis-

personal journey, Uncategorized

Summer Rain

It was raining.

Big, fat drops on a humid summer day.

The earth became a drum as the sky opened up while a crack of lightning arched across the clouds.

We sat at the dining hall, the small space between us only there because of potential, watchful eyes.

I smiled, drinking in the drastic change in weather. Drops of water sprinkled my skin as they crashed on the concrete steps before me. We were both silent–it felt like the entire camp had disappeared–and there was this blissful feeling of relief. It was like the past two weeks of muggy, bright, sunny weather had finally given in to the coming storm.

“This is everything I needed,” I said.

He turned to face me.

“What do you mean by that?”

I took a deep breath. The world smelled fresh and full of life. After days of heat, I felt like I could finally breathe again.

“It’s just… so cleansing. I love the rain because it feels like every bad moment and memory is being washed away.”

I caught his blue eyes.  

“It’s like starting over, you know?”

-Ember Alis-

personal journey, Uncategorized

I asked Aphrodite to help me Fall in Love

And she delivered. Boy, did she deliver. 

But with my first love comes my first heartbreak. Oh, Aphrodite, could you tell me why it has to be like this? To love and then loss, and then start over once again? The thought of beginning again is painful. How do I erase the future I’ve built with this person in my mind from my memories?

So, I’ll share with you a moment of reflection, dear readers. Perhaps it’s too personal, but sharing to me feels like healing. I’ve learned and grown so much and I don’t regret anything–not a single moment. For all the wrongs you’ve done, I still love and care about you. Aphrodite, help us both heal and find our own ways to be happy.

______

What happened to us?

Tequila shots in your apartment. A quiet kiss in the Adirondack. Playing cards at the chapel. Making out in the back of your car. Eating at HopCat and falling in love with their fries. You telling your friends that I was your girlfriend for the first time. Hearing each other’s thoughts. Listening to ‘You’ve Been Written’ and thinking about us and how, maybe, just maybe, we’d end up married.

Watching you play piano as gray sunlight filtered through your window. Listening to you rant about League of Legends and smiling dorkily because I love hearing about that part of you. Eating breakfast together. Making coffee for you. Listening to you read Dracula as we cuddled on our pleather couch.

Making plans for our future. Searching for houses, apartments, and places to live together. Meeting your parents, your siblings, and the dog you had as a kid. Playing piano in your mom’s basement.

The moment I told you I felt my future change. The moment you told me that you felt yours did, too.

The moment your words began to feel like knives in my heart.

When you wouldn’t listen to me talk about musicals or tell me to be quiet because I was too much.

When I’d be excited about something but you’d give me a mediocre response.

When you’d roll your eyes at the fantasies I had in my head.

When you told me that I’m the kind of person you used to make fun of.

When I looked for validation in everything you said because you seemed to know everything.

When I felt bad for liking or listening to musical theater because you thought it was dumb.

When you didn’t seem to care about anything I said.

When you told me that I’m too sensitive.

When you told me that I don’t think before speaking.

When you told me you didn’t want to call on the phone.

When we would talk on the phone and I could tell you didn’t want to be there, listening to what I had to say.

When we’d talk on the phone and you’d ask me why I was calling you, and asked what I wanted to talk about like it was weird to just sit and talk about nothing with someone you care about.

When you’d get frustrated by me playing video games.

When you told me I should be happy you weren’t making fun of me for crying so much.

When you asked me what we were doing.

When you said you were thinking of turning it around, but then I messed it up and I know that now, and I wish I had just kept my mouth shut and we could’ve at least had Thanksgiving together.

When I told you “Just one last kiss” before I left for our break, and I didn’t realize it really would be our last kiss.

When you told me that you weren’t good for me.

When you told me that I needed you to leave.

When you said goodbye.

When you left.

__________

-Ember Alis-