Learning the Art of Togetherness
It seems as though my entire life has just been one giant fucking complication. This might sound like if I’m complaining to you, but I can honestly say it’s just the facts. You could say that from the moment of my conception, through my birth and early years, and especially in the years as I transitioned into an adult (if you could even call me that) my life has always been complicated. And, you know it’s not just my life that is complicated, it’s me. I myself am complicated. Furthermore, I complicate every situation around me to no end. What can I say? If there were a special course to teach people how to complicate their lives, I would be the professor. Never can I have just one simple day or moment. Decisions are long and drawn out because the indecisiveness of my mind is vast and never-ending. The multitude of “what-if” situations never ceases to play like a movie reel in my mind. The possibilities of what can happen to me are endless, and therefore my mind is always on the defensive, and I strive for ways in which I can avoid the unavoidable. My cup is always half empty and I strive for the bare minimum of effort possible. I am lethargic, defensive and aggressive. You would think growing up with a bunch of do-gooders I would have come out striving to achieve the best of the best. Quite the opposite really, I’m content to relax and let others do the hard work, me? I’d rather sit back and eat a whole box of donuts (Munchies! They get me every time!). This wasn’t always the case; I wasn’t always so tired and content to let my life pass me by.
In our home growing up, and still to this day, there has been a Mom who is madly and irrevocably (against her better wishes) in love with the Dad, who feels quite the same about mom. And so Mom and Dad had Four Daughters. One Lawyer, Two Teachers, and Me. This is the small circle that consists of my childhood family. Together we have everything we need in this world to be happy, with our collection of animals and kids. Over the years our small family has grown to include three more, as dad got the sons he never wanted. Some have come and gone over the years, but only a few have been permanent. Add to that how we’ve been multiplying through procreation, and we’re a big unit now.
Growing up, I was that kid on the playground making all the rules. The one who ran the block and made the decisions in her group. If you couldn’t keep up, you weren’t good enough or smart enough to hang with me and my kids. My conniving scheming days started in first grade Christian School when I attempted to write my own excuse letter for not having done my homework, or when I was reprimanded in second grade for attempting to cheat on my math test. Our personal favorite was when the decrepit old Crane threatened to paddle me in third grade for writing a bad food critique about the cafeteria food — utilizing only cuss words. In personal education, I was the girl who was excused for her “serious” heart condition (not that serious), and the one who always got to sit out during the mile run. Still, to this day I cannot run a mile under fifteen minutes. Pathetic, I know. I had more growing up than just street creds on the playground, I also had three other sisters to come home to at night, and we would spend countless hours doing those things that only girls know how to do. Barbie villages would overtake the biggest of our rooms and we would set up shop. There would be dream houses, beach houses, grocery stores, and malls. Convertibles parked in each lot, and shoes, clothes, and accessories strewn throughout the hallways. Whole camping sites, airports and communities would be constructed within hours. By the time we were done bringing it all out, we just wanted to play outside. So out we would run to chase after the ice cream man, who coincidentally would allow me to run a tab with him. Endless days of ice cream, candies, and games out on the pavement led to the wild days of my youth as we ran through the neighborhoods on our bikes, threw ourselves high into the air from the trampoline, or watched the sunrise as we played endlessly into the night on our Super Nintendo, Nintendo64, and so on and so forth. You name it, we had it.
It was in these early years of strict Christian teaching that my love for books was born. I was the nerdy one who was years ahead of her reading level, the girl who treasured her library card, and who would strive to read all the books in the class, and then some. In third grade reading books would no longer satisfy my craving for the mixture of words into a story. I began to crave to make my own output. I needed an outlet for my creativity as the more stories I read, the more I wanted to create some of my own. My earliest creations were crude and rudimentary at best considering I was only 6 years old and could write at a 5th-grade reading level. In those early years, my life was so consumed by words that I was soon running out of appropriate reading material, to the point that my teachers, to keep me complacent, would feed my mind with encyclopedias and dictionaries. In those early years of the ’90s, my book bag would weigh like a ton of bricks because of books, now the Kindle has changed my life. Still, to this day my favorite smartphone app is dictionary.com and others, which test knowledge and terminology.
It seems logical that I would eventually work towards a degree in English Literature as this was the one set of coursework which I generally enjoyed. I spent many years wandering in and out of classrooms, lost in a haze of confusion as I thought about the future and what it would hold for me. In the years after graduating high school, I lost myself, and because of this, my school has suffered. I spent many years growing anxious over what would become of me if I did not decide on a profession and start working as an animal towards it. I thought only of money, greed and how to get to the top as fast as possible. I crashed and ten years later I finally have a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. However, I still seek knowledge, and it is my ultimate goal to reach the top of my field. It’s a goal I never give up on and always come back to. I gave up on the forced corporate lifestyle my life had taken. I felt the need to be free to create my own words and allow the world to hear my message. I needed to give my creative outlet its chance to shine, and the Bipolar Mind has been demanding an audience.
As I discovered the open courses of English Literature, I discovered exactly what my soul had been yearning for. The professors I encountered and the coursework I was introduced to have changed many of my perceptions on life, and have altered many of my ideologies. I can no longer see the world in the strict black and white I was taught to look with. I see the bright colors of both sides to the story and see the compassion of learning to live with the experiences of another. By enrolling in a variety of literature classes my mind’s eyes have grown and my soul has traveled the world. I discovered a place in which words hold true meaning and can be used to sway nations and spark change. I discovered my niche.
Growing up, I lived at home with my three closest best friends, who also just so happened to be my sisters, and there was no need for me to look elsewhere for love and commitment. I had what I needed at home. The four infamous sisters were also blessed with a fifth honorary sister, who still to this day knows me better than I know myself, being that we are separated by six short months, and raised together for the last thirty years.
Each of these ladies over the years has influenced me for the better, and over the years of growing traditions and expanding families, we have mastered the essence of just what “togetherness” means, and have adopted it as a family mantra. At the end of the day, if we are together, we are happy. As a whole, we are women who can accomplish anything with our combined forces, and we have been known to move theoretical mountains. I’ve actually seen them do it. These women have accomplished what I would have considered impossible and pulled me from the brink of my madness, from the brink of life, and made me wish to keep living. Each of them has given me a purpose in this life, and for them, I hope to do the same. But it leaves you wondering, what is this “togetherness”?
First and foremostly we do everything together, as a whole. No matter where you are, or who you are with, or how far apart we are; you must always find a way of filtering the information between us all so that we are all “in the know”. This is how the women in our family function, and the more we know, the more shit we talk. Plain and simple. We love to talk shit, about everything and everyone. Put us all in a room together and it would be difficult to get a word in. Hell! We even talk shit about each other. We are systematic, ruthless, and operate as a pack of lions; each one of us taking care of the others in the pack. There are no strangers allowed, and if we don’t like you, we will take you down. At the end of the day, we are family and we love each other. It is because we have this emotion for each other without judgments or malice that we are able to function as such a unique whole operating unit. Each of us brings something to the table, and we all share each other’s burdens.
From early on there have been signs of the mania that would eventually throw my life off course. The speed in which I would race through life since early on, as well the fast thought processes and rapid speech were all indicators of demons lying dormant, waiting for their chance to rise above the surface and show their prickly horns. Since young my inhibitions have always been low, and I have always loved to move faster and faster, stuck on Alice’s teacup whirling until my surroundings were blurred, and life beside me became unrecognizable. As a young child, you would pass these signs off as naturally being high-strung, and simply full of energy. However, in the later stages of my teenage years, these same systemic symptoms would shred the pieces of my life apart, and not for many years would I be able to rebuild it.
It takes a woman in possession of great wisdom, patience, and back steel to deal with my Demons on a daily basis. At the end of the day, all roads lead back to Mom, as she is the one with the answers and provides all the love and nurturing our souls could ever need. She gives and gives unselfishly until the love bleeds from her heart and leaves her body wracked with exhaustion. During the high stages of my mania, she provides the anchor to pull me back down, and during the bare bottom of my depression, she provides the reinforcements to pull me from my cave. She is the mother, and her love exceeds everything that is horrible and brings everything that is beautiful. It is because of Mom that Togetherness was born; to her, we are forever grateful.
Many traditions have been curated over the years. Such as sitting and eating dinner as a family each night, full table setting and all (Rule: plastic for us, glass for Dad). Family vacations were taken on a yearly basis, and memories were created to last us a lifetime. Still, to this day we treasure these moments that were given to us at these stages in our lives. Because of the values of love and family that were instilled in us at these young ages, we have continued to develop lasting relations among each other, and continue to rely on each other heavily. These relations will later become the base of the support system built to help rehabilitate my life in later years. Essentially, in the battle against the Bipolar Mind, the Support System is pivotal.
Shockingly enough I was pretty shy throughout the beginning stages of my life. I would normally stick to the handful of friends and family that I knew, and would not venture out much further than that. However, as I began to grow and was moved from the strict rules of Christian School to the free for all experiences in Public School, it was as though the shackles had been let free and I was given the space I needed to grow.
On my first day of third grade, in a new school, surrounded by an all-new environment there would be a line of words strung together that would change my life forever, “Hi! I’m new here too, want to be best friends?” and we would be, for the next eighteen years…
Illustrations by: Alexis Bringas