“Humans” 01.28.22

This is a day for pondering. What defines a human? The dictionary gives us no clues, and we are left with our own presumptions. Who is a person? What are we made of? Some would say we are made of 75% water. It cannot be purely physical. Is it the mask we wear in public that defines us; or is our foundation built around the person we become behind the scenes? Are we solely at the mercy of our parents’ example? Do we choose water over blood, or are we so strongly bonded to family that we are connected like roots to the people we were born to live, love, and tolerate?

Are we defined by our minds, our bodies, our spirits? Our actions and our reputations? Do we read nonfiction in order to learn, or are we entertaining ourselves in a form of denial called “fiction.” Do we learn what others force us to know, or do we learn because we are curious? Is it human nature to be curious? There are people who want to drown the world out in order to close the blinds on reality. No matter how dark our curtains can be, there are slivers of light reaching through to gather us and bring us to the sun, guiding us toward truth. What are we hiding from? Are we sexist? Are we racist? Are we judged by the color of our hair or the shade of our skin? I believe that life is better when you face it and stop burying yourself in the ideas of past and future. Some of us lead long healthy lives, while others strive to succeed and fail. All we have is now. This moment is real. This moment will pass. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are not invincible, as we hold fast to this idea. We will not live forever. We only have now.

What defines a human? Love? Acts? Flaws? In truth, I do not know. I speculate that the answer is simple, though some people try too hard to understand. I believe that humans have the capacity to love and to forgive. We can learn to break away from hate. We can become whole by helping those less fortunate. Humans have the chance to do what is right, as well as what is wrong. That is our free will. Our words and actions speak volumes about us. We do not all follow the path of light. I believe this makes us human, and it is never too late to change, grow, and prosper.


“Respirator” 12.17.21

In public, at events we are not able to make excuses well enough to skip (and spend much of the time in the bathroom in order to escape the crowd), we are often asked, “What do you do?” Are we defined by our careers or lack thereof? I know from experience how awkward it can be to end up on the downside of this floundering question. When I was unemployed for nightmarish reasons the public couldn’t dream of, I was embarrassed by this inquiry. I found it hard to hide, and even harder to come up with an answer on the spot. I did not realize at the time that I had nothing to be ashamed of. Once upon a time, I asked my dad how I could handle this question. He suggested telling others that I was a “Respirator.” Who would question that response even if they knew what it meant? Dad meant to employ me with a career as a “Breather.”

Breathing is a job in itself. Many people inhale and exhale on autopilot. It doesn’t come so easily for us all. When I forget to breathe during an episode of high stress, a panic attack ensues. Panic attacks are quite frequent in my life. It helps to be a “Respirator.”


“Run, Elliott, Run!” 11.12.21

I know I have told you several times about my love for running and having to quit because of injured knees. I loved to run like I love to breathe. I learned to run before I learned to walk. In elementary school, I ran the fastest mile. During recess, no one would race me, because they knew I would win. I won most of the running related events at “Field Day.” I ran the 800 and the hurdles on the track team in middle school, and I was captain of my high school Cross Country team. I trained with the boys, and won lots of races. I ran road races, one in which I achieved my personal record and took home the first-place trophy now sitting on my desk at home. I went to running camps, and I ran on my own time. My dad used to say, “Run like the wind!” Running was a huge part of who I am, and a significant loss. Now I am left only with stories.

My family filmed most of my childhood, and my mom transferred all of the tapes to flash drives for each family member. I take good care of everything. I am organized. Sitting here right now, I know where that flash drive is without having to search. I have watched many of the videos. One of the segments was funny at first and heartbreaking toward the end. Mom focused the camera on a three-year-old Samantha, my teddy bear, and my friend, Cameron. The movie “ET” had just aired. Mom asked, “Samantha, what are you doing today?” I answered, “My name is not Samantha! My name is Elliott!” “Oh, I’m so sorry, Elliott! What are you going to do today?” Elliott answered, “I am going to run, and run, and run, and never stop.”


“Mom” 8.27.21

I am grateful beyond words for my mom. I am her firstborn. She has always kept me out of harm’s way. She encouraged me as a child and as an adult to reach for my dreams, work for them, and achieve them. I realize how lucky I am. She is one of my greatest loves. I have many loves in my life, and thanks to her, I not only have Mom and Dad. She gave me three wonderful sisters. My mom is not only the bearer of daughters. She is my best friend.

When I was a child, I was very particular about clothing. I wouldn’t wear tights, hated elastic, and never wore shorts or pants. I didn’t want to wear tight fitting clothes. If I had my way, I would have run around naked. Before my chest developed, I pretty much did. I normally wore loose dresses that I picked out. I was all about comfort, without a care for fashion. It bothered my mom to no end. I would try to get away with wearing a dress several days in a row, and all of my family members–immediate and extended–remember a specific green dress.

Mom and I got into huge fights about my wardrobe. I pitched angry fits. One day, she handed me to Dad and he ended the dressing battles. The rules were that I came up the stairs, lifted my arms, and twirled around so he could smell me. If I didn’t smell like a “little goat” (as my mom would refer to me upon sniffing my forehead), I could wear whatever I wanted, much to Mom’s chagrin. My relationship with my mom began to strengthen after our frustrations subsided. I love my mom, and I always have. It is difficult to relay that message when you have had a big fight.

My mom has been with me through thick and thin. I am tired of talking about the hospital, which I think is a very good step away. One last time. Mom was devastated. She had to go to work every day knowing where I was, thinking about me, and telling no one. At one point, I didn’t recognize her. Still she fought to bring me home, knowing in her heart that I would return. She brought me her homemade bread when I wasn’t eating. I devoured it. There is no way to turn down that bread. Absolutely no way.

In my adult life, we have spent a lot of time together. I visit her and Dad every Saturday for breakfast; sometimes she stops by my house for coffee. Often we have walked together. We have been on many road trips and she is good company. She decorates her house for my birthday every year no matter how old I get, and makes my favorite cupcakes (red velvet with cream cheese icing). When Rush and I got married, she planned the whole day and helped to make it the best day of my life. She makes my whole life special.

My mom is a huge part of my life, and without her I would be lost. She is my guiding star.


“Recognition” 4.9.21

The mind is a powerful entity. Much of it is still a mystery. What causes us to dream, to remember, to recognize the people in our lives, and to comprehend the situations happening around us? I don’t have these answers, but I am no stranger to memory loss and lack of recognition.

When we are children, we are taught basic table manners. We learn how to use napkins, utensils, and to keep our elbows off the table. I never imagined that one day I would not recognize the relationship between the utensils and the food. The key to starving is forgetting how to eat.

I tell this story many times over because this is something I will never forget and letting it out helps with the pain of remembering. While I was in the psychiatric hospital in 2013, I didn’t realize that the medication the doctors were trying to force down my throat was for my benefit. I couldn’t recognize that the doctors weren’t “bad guys.” I had horrible dreams that felt so much like reality. They clouded my judgment and caused me to believe my delusions. It was nearly impossible to talk me down.

Worse than mania, depression, psychosis, memory loss, or delusions, was not recognizing my parents and loved ones. I understand now how much harder that was for them than it was for me. I have been reminiscing today and some terrible memories have come to light. I am sure that during our sheltering in place we have all had time to think about things we wanted to bury. Memories can be repressed, but they are always in the back of our minds, waiting to be remembered.

Sit down. Write down what you are remembering, good or bad. It may help you to release some of your emotions. While it is more fun to drown our sorrows by binge watching television, we have to do the real work of recognizing our deepest traumas if we are to put our bad memories behind us. Talk to someone you trust. Release your emotions. Recognize your feelings. Cry. Laugh. Heal.