Fetch the Label Maker! A Discussion on Sexuality Terminology

It has been one year since the last time I posted on here and it’s been something of a whirlwind year for me. Last year, in observance of National Coming Out Day, I talked about my struggles to come to terms with my sexuality. At that time I was still embracing the concept and I knew that there was a chance that things would evolve from that point. I was quite new to the community and there were still a great many things that I didn’t know and this year has been a wonderful experience in learning and expanding my understanding.

I’ve since learnt that there is a whole other layer of terminology for sexuality types beyond the simple 0-6 Kinsey scale. Pansexual, demisexual, polysexual, asexual. And it doesn’t end there; there are even more specifications from that point. In the last year, I’ve been introduced to a whole new vocabulary and found a new label that fits me so much better than what I’d known before. (Biromantic demisexual, in case anyone is curious).

The most common question that I’ve gotten since my last post is why having a label matters? I admitted that I knew that I wasn’t heteronormal. The people closest to me already knew that I wasn’t heteronormal. Why did it matter that I have an appropriate label for my sexuality?

The thing that people doesn’t understand is that it was never about putting a label on myself. It wasn’t that I needed something to call myself or that I needed to have some absolute definition to attach to my sexuality. For me, the magic in finding a correct term was purely in knowing that I was not alone. If that term existed, it meant that there were other people out there who were the same as me. That was the single most monumental thing that came from this whole process.

That was the single most monumental thing that came from this whole process. It wasn’t in embracing myself for who I was or knowing that the people in my life would still accept me while knowing the truth. It was the realisation that I was not alone in this world. I haven’t actually met anyone with the same sexuality as me – at least not that I know of – but the simple fact that they are out there somewhere is comfort enough. Much in the same way that discovering communities for people suffering from depression provided hope and reassurances, knowing that there are enough other people out there who feel the same as I do eases the fears and uncertainty of reinventing my self-image.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, when so many people are opening up and learning to embrace and identify their sexuality, I simply want to let them all know this one crucial detail: Whether you are ready to shout your sexuality from the rooftops or if you’re still playing things close to the vest, it doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t about the labels we attach to ourselves. It isn’t in being able to tell the world that “yes, I am ____.” It is about belonging.  It is about knowing that there are other people out there that are like you.

You are not alone.

 

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Packing Up the Stress

Baggage claim ecomo

 

Planning for vacation is stressful!

Now if I’m being completely honest, this is like the first proper vacation I’ve ever taken by myself. Before this all of my vacations were with family, so my parents handled all of the difficult stuff and I just tagged along for the fun. So I suppose there is the possibility that I just haven’t had enough experience to really get the hang of things.

I’m sure it also doesn’t help that I’m going out of country, which is something that is completely foreign – no pun intended – to me. I’ve never actually left the continental US before, but this March I’m flying out to spend two weeks in the UK. So I’m having to figure out a lot of this international stuff on my own.

These last few weeks – and the seven remaining weeks until I leave – have been a non-stop whirlwind of stress and planning. I’ve been scouring airline sites for the best deals on flights. I’ve been refreshing the page obsessively on hotels.com and cross-checking the locations of the cheaper hotels to find out if it’s worth the cost or if I’ll be paying that much in transport anyhow. I’ve been meticulously scratching out how much money I’m allowed to spend on food a day to stay within my budget and checking the costs of local transport to get around. I’ve been comparing international cell phone rentals to get one that works for what I need.

Sometimes the stress of it all makes me wonder if it’s going to be worth it in the end. I’m going to need the vacation just to relax from the exhausting ordeal of planning this vacation.

And then I remember that I’m finally going to be visiting my dream city and I feel better.

Along this tornado track of madness though, I’ve picked up a couple useful tips that I will definitely remember for the next international – or any, really – trip that I take.

1. Start early. Whatever you do, do not leave everything until the last minute. Not only will it save you a great deal of stress, but also a lot of money. Airlines and hotels will often give you discounts for booking early. (I just saved 150 dollars for booking my hotel so far in advance.)

2. Make a checklist. This has helped me keep my head on straight and make sure that I’ve not forgotten anything. It’s great for keeping track of costs as well, especially for those of us that are travelling on a tight budget. Not to mention, there’s something really satisfying about being able to scratch off each thing as you complete it.

3. Ask around. Have a friend or family member who’s visited there before? Don’t be afraid to check in with them. There are a lot of cultural and economic differences that you need to consider when travelling to another country, and the best place to get that information is from someone who’s been there. Having a friend who lives in the UK has been invaluable for me, not to mention he’s been coaching me so I don’t make social faux pas and get grouped in as one of “those Americans.” You know which ones I mean. And if you don’t know someone personally, check the travel sites forums. There are a lot of great people there willing to offer free advice.

4. Don’t forget the little things. This one bit me in the ass hard. When planning a trip it’s easy to remember the big stuff; the plane, teh hotel, packing your things. But don’t forget to think about the minor details too. Are there eating constraints to plan around? Have you looked into how the public transit works or rented a car? Do you know the basic driving laws? What about communication; does your cell work abroad or do you need to activate your international calling? They might seem like little things now but they can really ruin a trip if you’re unprepared.

5. Breathe. Seriously, remember this one. Don’t let yourself forget that you’re doing this for fun. When it gets stressful, step back and take a deep breath. Think about all the fun things you’ll do once this stressful planning part is over. Exhale and dive back in.

There’s a lot of work that goes into planning a trip, but if you remind yourself that this is something that you want to do it becomes that much easier. After all, isn’t every thing worth doing a little bit of work? It’s worth it in the end.

I’ll keep you all updated as my first international holiday draws closer and then I’ll share all my adventures once I’m home. Until then,

Bon Voyage! 

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Random Roadtrip! | Beyond the Pale: Daily Prompt

When was the last time you did something completely new and out of your element? How was it? Will you do it again?

For a person consumed by an insatiable wanderlust, I’ve done an abysmal amount of actual traveling. I’d never actually taken a vacation for myself before, never picked out a destination and simply gone there. I’d never done a single impulsive thing in my life. And last spring I was feeling sluggish and stalled and full of pent up energy.

At the time I was working at a gas station, part time and minimum wage, and going to school taking classes that I hated. I was living in a shabby rental house that had more problems than perks – although it did have a tree swing, which was kinda fun. I was, to put it succinctly, miserable.

Now I have to preface this by saying that nothing fun ever comes to Utah. Sure we get some concerts and stuff but the things I’m actually interested in – i.e. nerd stuff – never ends up here. Things like book signings and theatre companies and the Tour de Nerdfighting. So the opportunity to go to events I like is a very rare one and usually involves driving a state or two away. Hence why I never go.

But Team Starkid was in the middle of their Apocalyptour and out of curiosity I checked their site for dates. They were performing in Denver, Colorado on a Thursday night. I casually checked my calendar and, by some miraculous stroke of luck, I had that day off. So on the spur of the moment, I bought a ticket to the show and booked a cheap hotel room. The day of the show I got in my car at four o’clock in the morning and began the ten hour drive from Northern Utah to Denver.

It was a long and tedious drive, lonely and exhausting. I nearly got lost in Wyoming twice and got a speeding ticket along the way. Then I actually did get incredibly lost in both downtown Denver and in Commerce City because the google map I’d copied to get to my hotel included a highway turn-off that didn’t actually exist anymore. So finally, after calling my mother at home to get on the computer and get me unlost – I didn’t have an internet capable phone at the time, don’t judge me – I finally dropped off my bag and went into Denver.

I had to park two miles from the music hall because there was a Rockies game across the street and hiked up through the city toward a music hall that apparently none of the local cops had ever heard of because none of them could give me directions. Thankfully I finally walked far enough to see the line running out of the front of the hall – which went all the way around the corner of the block – and I jumped in at the back.

So there I was, a socially awkward and anxious person who had driven a total of eleven and a half hours – factoring in the time I was driving around in circles lost – standing in a line full of people I’d never met to go into a noisy, crowded, loud concert. I had never been further out of my comfort zone.

And it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

The concert itself was amazing. If you ever get a chance to see Starkid perform live, do it. They know how to put on a fantastic show. In line I met a couple other girls who had come out from Utah and we spent the evening together. I jumped around in a nerdy mosh pit and sang until I couldn’t speak anymore. I had the time of my life.

After the concert ended I went back to my hotel room and crashed for all of five hours before I had to get up and start my drive back – my best friend was coming up to spend the weekend and I had to get back before she arrived. So I grabbed a quick breakfast from the hotel dining room and then drove the ten hours back home. I went back to my awkward, miserable, menial life without a voice but with a speeding ticket to pay.

I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

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A Brand New Me

I am terrible at keeping New Year’s Resolutions. It probably doesn’t help that I always seem to make the same, cookie-cutter resolutions: eat better, lose weight, get fit, save more money. They’re the same typical resolutions that everyone makes and at the end of the day I only feel committed to them because they are what I should want. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never actually kept a resolution before in my life and I think it’s because I just don’t care enough.

Do I want to lose weight and get fit? Of course I do. Do I want to save up more money? Absolutely.

But do I care enough to actually put a year’s worth of effort toward it? HA! More like I make it about two months and then I get knocked off track and give up for a couple months before trying again some time in June-ish.

Which is why this year I am going to make entirely different resolutions. Instead of the same, generalised, broad resolutions that I make every year, I’m going to make some different, specific resolutions. Things that pertain exactly to me. Things that I really care about seeing accomplished.

1. Have an adventure!: This is something I’ve always wanted to do and this year I’m going to make it finally happen. I’ve done new things and taken trips before but I want to have an actual, genuine adventure. I want to see new places and do new things and meet new people. This is a task that will hopefully be checked off during my spring break trip to the UK.

2. Lose 30 pounds: Yes, this is still the same old resolution, but this time I’m being more specific. I am setting an exact number. This isn’t just a vague plan, it’s a concrete goal. (An FYI, I’m already 2 pounds in. Booyah!)

3. De-clutter: I own a lot of s***. Like, a lot. For someone who doesn’t have much space, I have sure accumulated a lot of things. And a lot of unnecessary things, at that. So this year, I’m going to thin down the stuff and get rid of a lot of things I don’t need. The bonus is it’ll clear out more space for books, which is always a good thing.

4. Learn something new: I’ve been thinking about crocheting. Or cross-stitching. Something crafty like that.

5. Stop making excuses to cancel plans: This is one of those things I’m really bad about doing. I make plans to go do something, and then at the last minute I come up with some excuse to stay home. “I’m sick.” “I got called in to work.” “I had a family emergency.” The truth is I’m a little bit anti-social. I want to make new friends and do things and live, I’m just always too socially anxious to go through with things. This year, that changes.

6. Go to a bar/club: As a 24 year old, I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually been inside of a bar or club before.This is partly to do with the fact that I’m social awkward and don’t do well with big crowds. Also doesn’t help that the majority of my friends are LDS housewives. But it’s one of those things I feel like every person should do at some point in their life, and I want to give it a shot.

7. Go out on a date: Another shameful moment here. I’ve not been on a date in well over a year.

8. Give up soda: I’ve been trying to do this for years, with moderate success. This is not just for health reasons but money as well. I spend way, way too much money on Dr. Pepper. Not to mention calories.

9. Take one day a month to tech-detox: We live in such a technologically dependent world, and I especially spend the majority of my time on the computer. And when I’m not on the computer, I’m on my phone. So I’ve resolved that at least one day a month, I will turn off all of the tech – the phone, the computer, the tv, the radio – and I will just exist.

10. Finish (and publish?) my novel: By and far, this is the most important resolution I’m making this year. I actually made this one last year and failed it epically. This year though, I will finish my novel and I’m going to start sending it out to publishers. If things don’t pan out with the contacts I’ve already made, then I’m going to self-publish by the end of the year. Either way, come 2015 I will be a published author.

Resolutions are made for a reason. They are made to give you goals to work toward; to give your year a direction and purpose. 2013 might’ve been a year of stalling and stagnancy for me, but everything is about to change. I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to be a different person.

And 2014 is going to be a whole new year.

Scars | An Original Poem

Isn’t there something so profound about a scar?

To the creative mind it is a mark full of promise,

Its knotted length bloated with symbolism and meanings.

An enduring sign of infinity,

Everlasting,

Remaining beyond the stretch of memory.

Every person has a scar someplace,

Most of us more than one, I would guess.

As for myself, I lost count after eighty.

There is one on my wrist from a chain link fence.

A shiny white patch gleams on my calf,

A memento of the dreaded chicken pox.

As for the countless more, they tell of nothing

Except that I am a klutz.

All but the one;

A shallow line on my cheek

That heralds of something much more.

A tragedy.

Brought on not by a tripping of feet

But by the terrible thirst of a man.

I will not say

For I’m sure you can imagine

What comes of a man, a small girl, and a knife.

With the blade on my cheek

He partook of his wants

And it was never spoken of again.

He went his way with something I could not regain,

And I went mine with my scar.

Oh what a glorious thing, a scar;

So ripe with colorful metaphors.

The tribute to eternity that always reminds

Of which the mind wishes it had forgotten.

The Tree House | An Original Short Story

kids-treehouse-design

Susie stood dutifully in the kitchen. Her cutting knife moved swiftly and mechanically within her hand and beneath it the carrot sticks promptly became thin slices. The radio was playing softly in the background but Susie was only pretending to listen. In her mind her thoughts had drifted, stolen away on a ship headed off in search of a new land that wasn’t polluted by the tragedies of her current state.

Six months, Susie thought remorsefully. It’s been half a year since he was taken.

Almost unconsciously, Susie’s eyes slid up to the picture resting in a silver frame on the windowsill in front of her. A tall, strong man glared out at her from the photographic paper. His blonde hair was cut very short, barely visible beneath the brim of his hat, and his face was set with a determinedly serious look, matching his dark green military suit and hat. Golden arrows were threaded onto the shoulder of his jacket, presenting his sergeants rank. Everything about this man emanated an aura of power, respect, and duty. Everything, that was, except his eyes. Brilliantly blue with just a touch of green, like the bright waters of a mineral pool. Hidden within those eyes was the playfulness of a child, the same wonder at nature’s simplest things, and in those eyes Susie could see the charming smile that the photographer had forbidden him.

“My sweet Jason,” Susie sighed. Her hand had ceased moving and the half-finished carrots laid forgotten on the cutting board. Susie stared at the picture, willing it to come to life, to speak words of comfort to her, but Susie knew that she would never again hear Jason’s voice call to her, would never again see that glowing smile.

Six months ago the men had shown up on her front step, their glossy black car parked in the street because she hadn’t yet had a chance to shovel out the two feet of snow that had fallen the day before. Six months ago to the day Susie had heard the terrible news of the ambush on her husband’s vehicle convoy. Six months ago Susie learned how her husband had died trying to save another officer. Three shots to the back as he darted out from behind the car to pull his injured comrade to safety.

“Mrs. Carter,” the somber officer said slowly. “Your husband also wanted us to tell you one last message.” Susie couldn’t bring herself to meet the officer’s eyes and stared instead at the snow falling in the window behind him as she nodded. “Sergeant Carter wished that you knew that he loved you, and also wished to apologize to his son for never finishing his tree house.” Susie almost felt a smile touch her lips at this. Jason had been called to duty shortly after he had started construction on a tree house for their six-year-old son, Levi.

Six months had passed since that day and Susie raised her eyes from Jason’s photograph. Through the window outside, Susie could see the large oak tree where the baseboards and empty framework outlining walls sat waiting for someone to complete them. The dull August sunlight poured through the green leaves, filtering a faint verdant glow upon the boards as though nature was already attempting to claim the forgotten project.

“Mama,” the sweet, high voice of a young boy drew Susie back from speculations and she glanced down to find Levi gazing up at her curiously. Levi, now seven-years-old, resembled his father in almost every aspect. His fine hair was a sun-drenched blonde and almost fell into his eyes, a bright electrifying blue that made you feel he could see directly through you. He was exceptionally tall for a boy his age, but very thin with only a little of his baby fat still lodging desperately in his cheeks although soon to be dislodged by persistent exercising. The only places Susie could see any of herself in her young boy was in his small and slightly pointed ears, and his elegantly long and thin fingers. “Is dinner almost ready, Mama?” Levi asked inquisitively, peering hungrily at the cutting board.

“Yes, I just need to finish slicing these carrots,” Susie said, returning her gaze to the board and feverishly slicing at the vegetables.

“I’ll set the table,” Levi offered instantly and immediately scrambled to the cutlery drawer and gathering up silverware. Susie smiled and felt dry tears well up at the corners of her eyes. She quickly wiped a hand across her eyes. She had not cried when she had received the news and she refused to start now.

After dinner Susie stood at the sink, washing up the dinner plates. Levi had run off after stacking all the dishes next to the sink for her and putting the leftover meatloaf in the refrigerator, saying that he wanted to play soccer with Trigger, his pet German Shepherd, for a few hours before dark.

Susie was scrubbing at a plate when she heard Trigger’s barking suddenly stop. Worried, Susie set down the plate and rushed to the window. Levi was no longer playing with Trigger. Instead Trigger stood alone by the soccer ball, looking dejectedly up at the tree house. Susie felt her gaze pulled upward. Levi was standing alone in the middle of the floorboards, staring blankly into space. The sun was sliding low in the sky behind him and it cast an angelic glow around him, turning his blonde hair gold.

Susie’s mother’s intuition was screaming at her that there was something out of sorts about this scene but she could see nothing wrong so she returned to her cleaning, glancing occasionally out of the window to check that Levi was still safe. After a while Levi began waving his hands animatedly as though speaking to someone and Susie could hear his laughter echoing across the back lawn. Then finally as the last rays of sunlight vanished over the horizon Levi suddenly stopped speaking and sat in the middle of the tree house floorboards, staring vacantly at the crimson vista. Susie had finished the dishes over an hour before and had spent the time watching her son’s peculiar behavior through the window. When he sat down Susie finally ventured outside.

“Levi!” she called up to him. Levi crawled over and looked over the edge of the tree house down to her.

“Oh, hi, Mama,” Levi said sweetly and flashed his mischievous smile at her.

“What are you doing up there?” Susie asked, her hands on her hips.

“You should see the view!” Levi exclaimed excitedly. “You can see all the way to the grocer’s store up here.”

“Come on down here. It’s dark now and you need to get ready for bed,” Susie said. “Besides I’m not so sure that tree house is safe,” Susie grumbled to herself, knowing that saying so to Levi would only make him protest. But still Susie found it odd that Levi had suddenly climbed up there when for six months he had refused to even go near the tree that harbored it.

Levi scrambled down the ladder nailed to the tree trunk and jumped the last few steps so he landed cat-like at his mother’s feet. “Okay, Mama,” Levi smiled again. “Race you to the house?”

“You bet,” Susie grinned and took off running, Levi easily keeping pace with her and Trigger jumping at both of their heels. Levi glanced sideways at her, winked, and then put on an extra push of speed so he reach the door several long seconds ahead of her.

“When did you get so fast?” Susie asked, pushing back his blonde hair as he laughed at her panting breath.

“I’ve always been fast,” Levi answered, a playful sparkle in his eyes, “you’re just getting slower.”

“Oh, slow am I?” Susie asked. Levi mock-yelped and ran through the door and didn’t stop till he was in his bedroom. By the time Susie had walked the length of the house Levi was in his pajamas and nestled under the covers, waiting expectantly.

“Mama,” Levi said tentatively as Susie pulled the covers up around his shoulders.

“Yes?”

“I was just thinking – ” Levi stopped sheepishly. “I was thinking, I really want to finish the tree house.” Susie looked up at him in surprise. “I mean I already know how to build everything, I just sort of need the stuff to build it with.”

“You know how to build it already?” Susie asked curiously.

“Yeah, he showed me how,” Levi said enthusiastically. When Susie cocked an eyebrow he answered quietly,

“Daddy taught me how.” Susie felt the corners of her eyes begin to burn again but she blinked a few times and the feeling passed.

“All right,” Susie said. “As long as you promise me that you’ll be careful and if you need help you’ll ask for it and not try to do everything by yourself.”

“I promise,” Levi said quickly, drawing an X across his chest with his fingertip.

“Good. But now it is time to go to sleep,” Susie said, patting the covers. “Good-night.” Susie bent and gently kissed Levi’s forehead.

“Good-night, Mama,” Levi replied, snuggling deeper into his blankets. As Susie made to close the door behind her, Levi called out quietly, “Mama.” Susie stopped and looked back at him. “Thank you. For letting me do this.” Susie smiled and closed the door, knowing that her son had truly meant it.

Over the next few days Levi worked feverishly at the tree house. All of the floorboards that had started to rot were replaced and walls slowly began to take shape. The peculiar thing was that Levi rarely went out to work until after dinner, and then only worked until sundown. Shortly after sunset he would come back in, tired but happy, and tell his mother about all the work he had gotten done. Susie would often ask him how he knew how to do everything, to which Levi would always reply, “Daddy showed me.” And whenever he was asked about his strange work schedule, Levi smiled and said, “That’s when I feel him the most,” and refuse to explain further.

One evening, no more than an hour after Levi had gone out to work, Susie wandered out into the yard and heard her son’s voice coming down from the treetop. Wondering whom on earth Levi could be talking to, Susie mounted the ladder and began to climb. A few feet from the top Susie stopped, having caught some of what her son had said.

“So this nail goes in like this, right?” Levi asked. There was no response but Levi giggled and the rhythmic thumping of a hammer could be heard. Just as Susie took another step the hammering stopped and Levi spoke again.

“I haven’t told Mama about you yet,” Levi said slowly, almost as if he expected to get in trouble. There was a pause of silence. “I know I should, but I’m afraid she won’t believe me. Besides she’s been really sad lately.” Levi waited thoughtfully as if someone were speaking to him. “But she might send me back to that doctor, the one that helps crazy people get better. It never helped me, it just made me feel worse. I don’t want to have to go back but she’ll send me there, I know it.” There was a loud thud as if Levi had set down the hammer. “Fine,” he said grumpily. “But you have to promise that she won’t send me back. I won’t do it unless you promise.”

Susie’s hands and toes were starting to ache from hanging on the wooden ladder for so long so she decided it was time that she made an entrance. Besides she was afraid of what she was hearing and wanted to know whom Levi was hiding up in this tree house. Her mind filled with delusions of homeless beggars and run-away bandits up there with her son, Susie knocked on the wooden floor of the tree house before poking her head up through the hole.

“Levi, who’s up there with you?” Susie asked curiously, hoisting herself through the hole and onto the tree house floor. To her great confusion Susie saw no one except for Levi, who was sitting on the floor next to a hammer and a box of nails, his long arms wrapped around his knees.

“Hi, Mama,” Levi smiled.

“Who were you talking to?” Susie asked, looking around the large, square room once more. Absolutely no one. “I heard voices.”

“Nobody,” Levi said, a little too quickly. Then he scowled and looked over his shoulder briefly before returning his gaze to his mother. His large blue eyes were pleading. “Will you promise not to take me to the crazy doctor if I tell you?”

“Why would I take you to the doctor?” Susie asked. After Jason had died the school district had insisted that Levi meet with a counselor to help him get over it. Levi had hated every minute of it, claiming that the sessions only made him feel worse, until finally Susie took him out and let him deal with his depression in his own ways.

“I just don’t want to go back. And I’m afraid you’ll think I’m crazy and need to see a doctor if I tell you,” Levi persisted. Susie swallowed nervously. She thought she knew what this meant, whom Levi was talking to, but she prayed that this would not be the answer he gave her.

“Okay, I promise,” Susie said despairingly.

Levi took several deep breaths and then said, without ever looking at his mother, “Daddy. I’ve been talking to Daddy.” Susie’s worst fears had been confirmed. Levi glanced up at his mom and seeing the look on her face quickly said, “I told him, you don’t believe me, do you?”

“Oh, Levi.” Susie sighed and knelt on the ground in front of her son, taking his hands in her own. “Levi, you can’t be talking to your father. Daddy’s gone, honey, you know that.”

“Yeah, I thought so too,” Levi argued, pulling out of her grasp and climbing to his feet. “Then one day I was in the yard and I thought I could hear him calling me. I climbed up into the tree house and there he was. He told me he wasn’t about to leave until he had kept his promise to help me finish the tree house. That’s when I asked you if you’d buy me the stuff so we could finish it.”

Levi looked genuinely agitated and Susie couldn’t help but watch with wide-eyes. Levi kept running his fingers through his hair as he explained, pacing the length of the tree house in a nervous way. Finally he stopped and glanced up at a space slightly to his right. His brow furrowed as he seemed to be listening intently and then he glanced at his mother curiously.

“You still don’t believe me, do you?” Levi asked softly, his large blue eyes boring into her and filled with pleading.

“You have to believe me. He’s right here next to me. He’s not here all the time, only in the evening and he goes away as soon as the sun sets. But he is here.”

“Levi, this is impossible,” Susie said reasonably. “Listen to yourself, honey.”

“He’s here,” Levi protested, actually stamping his foot in frustration. He turned around and said to the air, “Tell her you’re here, Dad. Make her believe me.”

“Levi,” Susie said forcefully. She was getting tired of this and decided to put an end to this nonsense.

“He says that he can’t talk to you unless you let him,” Levi told her, his gaze resolute. “He says you are blocking him out. Pushing away his memory. Until you let him in you can’t see him.”

“I am not blocking out your father,” Susie snapped, stung by her son’s words and briefly forgetting the situation. “I have grieved and I learned to let go.”

“No, you didn’t,” Levi said, glancing over his shoulder with questioning eyes. “He says that if you had moved on then he would not still be here. He says that you never let yourself grieve, you simply pushed it all away.”

Susie felt tears burn her eyes and, for the very first time since she had received the news, she didn’t fight them. Levi’s words had struck something at her core and the truth left her breathless. She hadn’t grieved over her loss, she had simply forced herself to move on. Susie closed her eyes and let her remorse wash over her.

“Susie.”

The quiet voice seemed to be whispering to her from a great distance, as though her memories were given voice. A light pressure beneath her chin caused her head to lift and Susie feebly opened her eyes. Directly in front of her knelt a blonde man clothed in faded blue jeans and a white tee shirt. Bright blue eyes gazed into her with all the tenderness of the world. Susie felt her breath stop in her chest.

“Jason?” she managed to choke out. A playful smile crept across the face of the man before her.

“Glad to see you haven’t forgotten me,” he said softly.

“How is this happening?” Susie asked in disbelief.

“My soul couldn’t rest until my business had been finished,” Jason explained gently. “I made promises and I wasn’t about to see them go unfinished.”

“The tree house,” Susie said with a faint smile, looking around the wooden room.

“Yeah,” Jason agreed, following her gaze. “He’s done a really good job.” Jason glanced over his shoulder at Levi who beamed proudly.

“See, mommy, I told you he was here,” Levi said, coming to sit cross-legged beside his mother. “You just have to believe.”

“And I will always be here as long as you believe in me,” Jason added, returning his gaze to his wife. “Even after my business is finished my spirit will remain with you, provided you let me this time.” A mischievous grin touched his cheeks and he set his hand on top of Susie’s.

“I’m so sorry I shut you out, Jason,” Susie apologized, tears filling her eyes once more. “I was trying to be strong for Levi. I never meant to push you away, I just didn’t know how else to cope.”

“I know,” Jason said, touching his wife’s cheek tenderly. “I’ve been watching over you all this time and I always will be there. That’s my other unfinished business. The day that I left for service I promised you that one day I would return to you and stay by your side for the rest of your life. Do you remember?” Susie nodded as the faint memory returned to her. “I am a man of my honor and my soul will not rest until my earthly promises are fulfilled.”

“But Jason, you promised that you would stay with me for the rest of my life,” Susie gasped in realization. “That means – ”

“It means that when your time comes to leave this earth I’ll be there to escort you to the gates of Heaven,” Jason said solemnly. “That’s a promise I could never forget.”

Suddenly Jason stood, casting a glance out of the window frame. “It is almost time for me to go,” he said slowly.

“Must you go so soon?” Susie asked tearfully, rising to her feet as well.

Jason smiled sweetly. “My image only remains until the sun sets.”

“But he always come back,” Levi informed his mother. “Don’t you, Dad?”

“Always,” Jason agreed with a nod. “So we’ll get some more work done tomorrow night, alright sport?”

“Great,” Levi said with a smile. “See ya tomorrow.”

“See ya, sport,” Jason laughed, tousling his son’s light hair. Then he lifted his gaze to Susie. “You’ll come back up tomorrow, won’t you?”

“If you’ll be here,” Susie said, trying to keep the sobs from her voice. Jason smiled broadly and began to turn away. His figure was beginning to thin and the wall behind him became visible through him. “Jason,” Susie called out and Jason stopped. “I love you.”

With a gentle smile on his face Jason quickly strode back to her. He wrapped her in his arms and Susie drank in the feeling of his comforting presence.

“I love you too,” Jason answered, “and I always will.” He pulled away and gently placed his lips on her forehead as the last rays of the sun disappeared beyond the horizon.

In the silence that followed Susie heard a quiet whisper in her ear.

“That’s a promise…”

Fear Factor

Everyone is afraid of something, whether they will admit to it or not. Spiders, snakes, heights, clowns. I’ll be the first to admit that I am afraid of a lot of things. Like, a LOT. Including those four things I listed above, I’ve got a lot of strange, irrational fears as well. Yeah, those ones that you can’t make any sense of or figure out where they came from, but you’re still freaked out by them anyway.

Perhaps the weirdest one I’m afraid of is calling people. I’m not afraid of answering the phone or talking on the phone to people, but I get so freaked out when I have to actually dial someone’s number. My heart races while I fumble through dialling the number, and if I manage to properly dial the number, that few seconds of dialtone waiting for the other person to pick up is so nerve-wracking. I can’t tell you what the hell caused this one or even why it bothers me so much, but I will go to great lengths to avoid having to calling anyone.

I’m also afraid of most barnyard birds, like chickens and geese and occasionally ducks. And swans. And pigeons. And crows. But mostly the barnyard poultry birds. This one I actually have a reason for, since I’ve been chased about by both geese and chickens before. They’re mean. They peck at your ankles, the dirty buzzards.

Then there’s the weird fact that I am not afraid of the dark or of enclosed spaces individually, but when combined together they are the thing of nightmares. There are few things in the world that I hate more than being stuck in dark, enclosed spaces.

Except maybe the dentist. God I hate the dentist.

I’ve somewhat tempered down my fear of spiders. I can handle spiders until they reach about the size of a nickel, and then I want nothing to do with them. That’s the point when I jump up on furniture and scream for mom to come save me.

And I never, under any circumstances, want anything to do with snakes. Ever. At all.

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