The Strength of the Sunflowers

To my saddened town, my hurting friends, and those in the shadows,

Losing someone to suicide cuts deep. It’s a jagged knife through a soft heart, undeserving and overwhelming. I know you’re bleeding out.

Everything changes now. You count out too many plates at dinner and then you lose your appetite because who can eat after this? You hear the door handle twist open and you picture their face, tears well up in your eyes when it’s not them. Graduation comes, and all their friends put on their caps, they walk single file towards their future, a future without their friend.

The days turn into weeks the weeks turn into months and you get further and further from the last time you saw them.

But here’s what happens, you never forget them. Their voice will ring in your head in all the right moments. Their laugh will echo in your dreams. Their name will be on a street sign as you drive through a town you’ve never been to. Their life will go on, through yours.

Look for them, they’re always around. Their picture falls in the hall as you pass by. Their dream car pulls up beside you at the stoplight. The song they sang till their lungs filled with laughter comes on the radio as you drive by their little league field.

You’ll feel them when their spirit stops by, keep your eyes open let it hurt, change, and heal you. You won’t want to miss any of it. They’re not gone. They’ll never be gone. Not as long as they have you.

And to you, the one who’s feeling like it’s too hard, like this life isn’t worth the struggle.

It is.

They say it all the time, things won’t always be like this. It’s true. The anxiety you feel about the future is tricking you into thinking you won’t make it, you will. The fear you have about asking for help is tricking you into thinking nobody cares. We do. The hate you have for your life is tricking you into thinking it would be better to just give up. It won’t.

You need to have hope. I hope you find the strength to stay. Not for your parents, not for your friends, for you. The you that will rock someone’s world. The you that will grow up change and build a life. The you that will bring something valuable to the table. The you that will make someone’s heart feel whole. The you that won’t always feel this way.

I know you’ll find love that fills you from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. I know you’ll fall into friendships that will pump your heart with so much love, that it will feel like it’s bursting in your chest. I know you’ll be happy in a life you built from a struggle you survived.

I hope you can be someone for someone.

I hope you can hold steady through the storm.

I hope this life goes easy on you, and I hope when it doesn’t that you can find strength in the sunflowers.

All my love, S

Good Bones

Building a life is hard work. There are missteps, miscalculations, and misunderstandings. Issues will arise for the entirety of your life, but it’s how you build that life that shows if you’ll withstand all the winds that are bound to blow. The key to construction is to have good blue prints, a good crew, and good bones…like a house.

Start with a strong foundation. Self-love is like concrete, sturdy and buildable. It sets the stage for all that comes after and is the deciding factor on whether you build your life for you or make your life a cookie cutter for someone else. Everything you build, with self-love as your backbone, is made to last. It makes room for improvement and if your foundation cracks, you have the tools to fix it. So, before you jump into this life take a moment to reflect on what you want it to look like. Make detailed blueprints and always have a backup plan backed by self-love.

Build yourself up from there, a house is steady when it has good studs. Surround yourself with people who will stand tall and strong when the wind blows. The structure may sway but that’s the leeway you need to bounce back.

The walls are your boundaries, don’t let hate or hurt cross them, and be mindful of the people you let past them. Some will love you deeply, others will scar your heart. And like the holes you make in the drywall when you’re spiraling out of control, scars can be hard to mend. Save yourself the hardship and only let the love in.

Make the guest room a place for your troubles, because they can’t stay forever and decorate with passion. Add rich colors that hold your head when you’ve had a long day. Decorate your life with texture and excitement. I hope you re-paint every once in a while, when you feel you need a change, and you never let your life get boring.

Your house like your life, should be built with room to grow. It can change, and it can adapt, don’t be afraid to make additions and add rooms.

Your life can be big and boisterous, it can take up space like a mansion in the hills. Or, it can be small and quiet, it can make room like a rancher on a dead-end street.

Whatever you want your life to look like, be sure to build it with good bones. A house with good bones won’t fall, and neither will you.

xS

The Friends You Make Here

When I went off to college I was devastated. I had built a life in my hometown where I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. I was safe in my routine. The world told me how great college would be and for the first few weeks I didn’t believe it. Now that I have settled in, I realize why people look back on their own experiences so fondly. They say you meet your best friends here, and I couldn’t agree more.

I got lucky, I found mine early, and this week I had to leave them. Leaving for the summer is so bittersweet. On one hand, I am happy I get to go home and see my family, start working again, and have my dog around all the time. On the other hand, I know I am going to desperately miss the people who have taken up most of the space in my life for the last nine months.

What makes college friendships so wonderful is that you spend your time with people for no other reason than your connection. The friends you make here you make because you have something in common and you completely enjoy their presence. You don’t have to keep up appearances like you did in high school, out of the fear that your parents will invite your friends’ parents to the back yard cook out. You don’t have to play nice with everyone just because you live next door to their grandma.

My home circle is tight, and I adore the kids I spent most of my life with, but there is a certain experience you get when you go away to college alone. The friends I made here were handpicked, by me, and I like to think I did fantastic job. It’s a refreshing change to have friends that I didn’t grow up with. Friends that don’t live next door to my grandma.

The people you meet in college change your perspective on life. My friends here are different from me in many ways. They have different stories. They grew up in different places. They love different music. They do different things. Thanks to all the ways they are different from me, I am able to grow in ways I couldn’t have at home.

I came into college nervous that nobody would ever be able to hold a candle to my childhood friendships. Boy was I wrong. My friends here have warm hearts and kind souls, they have made me a nicer person. They filed down my rigid edges and made me see the world in a brighter light. They love me purely, for who I am, and nothing else. They chose me like I chose them, because they saw something in me they liked.

In a school of fifteen thousand kids it’s easy to decide who is and who isn’t on your level. You can pick out people you connect with pretty easily and distance yourselves from those you don’t. We may all be together on the same campus for a few years, but college gives a lot more room for personal space than high school. We make time for each other here. Here you have to make the effort, you have to call people and tell them you want to see them. You don’t have the option of seeing them in homeroom, you can’t put off plans till eighth period. Everyone here is busy beginning their lives, you’ll know for sure who wants you in theirs.

So, if I have anything important to say it’s this, when you get a chance to run take it. Don’t tie yourself down to old routines and easy friendships. Put yourself out there and be a little uncomfortable for a while. The change you will see in yourself you will pay forward to the world. I hope you find people willing to love you for exactly who you are. I hope you find people you have on spot connections with. I hope you find people that teach you and help you grow. I hope you find people like mine. It may not have been the easiest road to take, but it’s the road I’m most grateful for traveling. I never expected to have friendships that were so pure and so real. I never expected to find my people, but here I am, full of love for my friends and the place that brought us together.

You’ll know when you find your people, because sometimes new acquaintances feel like old friends, hold onto them.

xS

 

 

 

Friendships With the Half-Hearted

When people leave our lives, it can hurt. Some people leave and it’s a quick burn, like grabbing onto a frying pan when it’s still too hot. Others leave an ache in your heart that is lasting and constant. In all of these departures, friendly and unfriendly, there is always disappointment.

We are always striving to do more, to be more, and to give more. But, we hardly ever hold our friends accountable for letting us down. We often forget to examine our friendships in the same way we examine what kind of friend we are. Are the people in our lives meeting the same standards we have for ourselves?

We hold onto people because of our history with them or because we feel like we need to take care of them. We hope that there will come a time when the friendship is no longer half-hearted or that they listen to understand and not to respond. Sometimes, it just can’t get there.

With these one-sided friendships there comes a point where you have to let go of people who were never holding onto you. When they decide that their time and attention would be better spent elsewhere don’t take it as an insult, take it as a chance to widen your circle and replace the energy.

Our view gets clouded by people who are only in our lives for their own benefit, it makes Dead Flowersit hard to keep up with other friendships when you don’t see what the rest of the world sees. In your own time, you will master the art of weeding out the dead flowers. There’s no sense in wasting water on them.

There is a teaching in buddhism about how an evil friend is worse than a wild beast, “wild beasts wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind”. Having  even one draining friendship only holds you back from finding people who will last in your life. People who will give as much as they get. People who will never take advantage of you or your story. People who will build with you, not just because of you.

I struggled for a long time before I understood that there can be good in goodbyes. I took every failed friendship like a shot to the chest when in reality, it was dead weight being lifted. Sometimes it takes a while to realize some people just aren’t for you. Their energy will never match yours and their spirit will never inspire you. That’s okay.

Focus your attention on those that bring you peace, people who you can rely on in your worst moments.  The climate of your life is not fit for all flowers, even the ones you take care of year after year in the hopes that they’ll bud. Surround yourself with friends who never make you feel used, and water relationships that you know will grow.

And as always, make sure there are a few sunflowers in your garden, souls like sunflowers can grow anywhere.

xS

Refocusing

After almost a year hiatus, I’m back.

There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty pot.” I spent last summer as an empty pot. Not sure where I was headed, what I wanted or, what I needed.  I helped start a club at school, and dropped out of it to work more. I lost the motivation to go to the gym or see my friends. My life was all over the place and I couldn’t manage to keep myself focused on one thing. I was constantly distracted by people and things that were draining me, being pulled in every direction by people who needed this and wanted that. I forgot to step back and take care of my own life.

I emptied my tank picking up everyone else without stopping for gas.

I needed to learn how to gauge people’s ability to accept and reciprocate, or at least appreciate the energy I gave them. Putting that undervalued energy into people, who will not grow because of it, results in nothing but waste.  What I learned was this, it is our choice as to who and what we put our time into, so make it count.

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I found one of my biggest stressors and also a major time waster was my social media. For me, it was full of people who I didn’t connect with in the real world, and whose outlook on life didn’t align with mine. The scam of social media is that you never know what’s true and what’s smoke and mirrors. I found myself feeling exhausted by all the drama and the over exaggerations of people lives. You can’t get caught up in comparing yourself with people who hardly exist outside the confines of an algorithm.

I started to limit my time on social media and un-followed pages that didn’t spark joy. Sometimes we forget that even our social media is an energy exchange. Being up till 1am reading people’s thoughts on Twitter or Instagram can be extremely wearing. So, if you’re going to spend hours a day flipping through pages and pages of other peoples lives, make sure their lives make you excited about continuing and bettering your own.

I stopped putting my energy into the wrong things. I was spreading myself thin trying to keep up with the demands of the world when I should have been the one demanding once in a while. So, I quit letting the idea’s of how I should exist write the rules in my life.

I went on this year with a fresh outlook and a no-nonsense attitude. I changed my major instead of learning to love my old one. I managed to score a position on the board of a club at school, and I started using the word no. If something wasn’t going to help me move forward or feel better it was a no go.

Be confident in your ability to know what is best for you, and what you need to do to for you. Focusing your energy on yourself is an important factor in becoming the best person you can be, for yourself and those around you. You can’t pour a cup from an empty pot.

Put good energy into the world, and where it matters.

xS

 

Taking the Time

In light of my past vacation I wanted to write about time. Time, our time, does not go on forever. We only have so many trips around the sun so, it’s important to make every rotation matter.

My trip was scheduled for two weeks after my spring break…genius! At first, I was stressed and didn’t want to go, and then I thought “fu*k it!” We only get one life and we have no way of knowing when our time is up. Some get many years some get few, and if I end up being one of the people who don’t get the time I deserve, I want there to have been life in my years.

There are some obligations in life that we just have to fill. Like working whether we like it or not. That being said where there’s a will there’s a way. When an opportunity to experience something new or do something that makes you happy presents itself, go for it! There will be other ways to make up the work your missing, or the vacation days your taking.

We spend so much of our lives working and worrying that we forget to take the limited time we were given and use it to be alive. I find so many of the people I know are just going through the motions. Something we can all practice is not letting life get in the way of living.  Life provides us with so many opportunities to fill our moments with joy and excitement so, we better take life up on the possibilities while we’re here.

Complete your work ahead of your vacation to make it stress free. Take a day off and worry about it later. We are so busy progressing that we forget to sit back once in a while and enjoy the progress we have made. The western world has put us in this rat race mindset making us think we constantly need more, that we need to put all our hours into work. Work through lunch, work past dinner, go in extra early, stay late. No. Refuse to give your life away to just anything. Make the moments count towards something.

One day we will wake up and look back on our lives, at all the opportunities we missed, and all the chances we didn’t take. Or, we will smile at all the things we were lucky enough to have the chance to do, and we will laugh at the memories we made with the people who matter most. We will have made an imprint on the world even if it was just footprints on a white sand beach.

Put good energy into the world, and make your rotations matter.

xS

Sunflower Town

My life comes in two parts, and my soul comes with baggage.

I call it BC. AC.

Before Cole after Cole.

Before Cole:

Life was as simple as it could be in a water tower town. My two brothers and I? We grew up good on love and sunshine. We drank iced tea in the summers and hot chocolate in the winters. We had all you could dream of as a kid, bikes, scooters, baseball bats. We played all kinds of sports from street hockey to horseback riding. Our lives were out of a home life magazine for the most part. My mom stayed at home with us our entire childhood, my dad worked as a State Trooper. My mom is a soft woman with hands that heal. My dad is a rough and tough man with hands worn from providing for us. We had everything we needed and whatever we wanted. Around the holidays we would send out christmas cards and, for thanksgiving we would visit with every side of the family we could. In the summers we would spend every waking moment in bare feet and bathing suits by the lake and when it wasn’t summer…we were waiting for it. A Picket fence family with a little bit of closed-door drama but nothing other families don’t deal with.

Then everything went black and, closed-door drama shifted into a town wide tragedy.

After Cole:

February gets its reputation truthfully,  cold, bitter, and miserable.  But, the morning I woke up to the blood curdling screams of my mother, crying over my baby brother, it was sunny and still. The water in the lake behind my house was a sheet of glass…as if it was frozen in fear. My brother had committed suicide and it was as if nature knew. There were no sounds from the outside world. A chilling silence behind the screams of terror in the room above mine. I called the first person I could think of, my high school english teacher. She couldn’t understand me through the phone as I tried to get the words out that, my life has just become the same tragedy I have watched repeat in my home town over and over again. She gave me the strength, for a moment, to breathe.

The moments after were a flood of flashing lights and blaring sirens. Men with black boots quietly wadded though my house as if walking on shattered glass, tip toeing around broken people. My mother had to be torn from my brother’s body. We were shuffled into the downstairs bedroom, that belonged to my other brother Jake, as they put Coles body in the ambulance. All I could think in my head was how ugly it was. How ugly the world became in a matter of minutes. The ambulance drove away with my brother and my innocence.

Throughout the day family and close friends quietly snuck through the front door brining enough food to feed an army. It was a good thing because, an army sure came. I can’t even re-call the amount of people who showed up to the house that day but all I knew was the support system around us, could swallow us whole. But still, even with all the love in the room everything was ugly. The room was quiet beyond a few whispers here and there. Emotion was either out of control or completely withdrawn.

The funeral was held that Friday. It was raining and dark out. The world was no longer in fear…it was crying. It was the first funeral I had ever been too and looking back now I should have drug the time on for a million more years because, even now after all this time, I am not ready to let go of the last moment I saw him or all the moments before that. If I could have climbed in the casket that day and been buried with him I would have. I said my final goodbyes but couldn’t stay to watch the casket close, that was the last time I saw my little brother’s face.

It was not the last time I thought of him.

Everyday from that day on I have thought of him.

I watched the middle school Cole attended, and the high school I went to, erupt in both love and sadness. Sadness derived from love is the strangest emotion to feel. It’s so bittersweet. Theres so much good that gets overshadowed by pain. Still, to this day I see support of my brother and posts about missing him and they all describe a sad love.

The thing we forget to tell people about suicide is it’s so much deeper than just you being gone. It’s every moment of the day you left, engraved in the hearts of your loved ones. It’s all the missed moments spotted from the sidelines…they should have been here..they would have loved that. It’s the haunting of the loss. It’s not understanding the definition of, “a mothers love” until you see it ripped from her. It’s the memories that are tattooed all over town. The time goes by, but the memories never fade and, while we become good at masking it and coping with it, the pain never fades either.

Loss is ugly. Remembering loss is ugly. Being reminded of loss is ugly. There are beautiful moments in celebrating the past of the person you lost, but not nearly as many as if they were here. When people leave the world feels it. Suicide doesn’t end the pain, it gives the pain a way to spread with no way to stop it.

To be truthful I know he’s still here. Cole shows up everywhere I go, on road signs that clearly spell out his name, in his favorite songs that come on the radio in all the moments after I almost crash my car. The forces above us, whatever they may be, bring him near to me all the time. Even though I may never know whats up head, I know what’s gone lingers to watch me grow.

 

Put good energy into the world, have a heart that heals, and find strength in the sunflowers.

xoxo s

Stand Up, Speak Up, Wake Up

Good health is not just the absence of physical disease, it is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. It aids in determining how we, as individuals, handle stress, enjoy life, and make choices. You will not have a healthy body if it’s not accompanied by a healthy mind. When we are free of depression, anxiety, addictions, or stress, we are more capable to live a much fuller, more enjoyable life. Unfortunately, we live in a world tainted with brokenness, volatility of human emotion, and imperfection. While positive mental health is strongly encouraged, it is not always granted.

Here in Mays Landing, New Jersey, we’ve woken up to the tragic phone calls and group texts. We’ve attended the candlelight vigils. We’ve attended the grief counseling. But each time we watch a little piece of the community drift away, it only gets harder every time we lose one of our own. Here in this community, we are doing more than lending an ear. We are hosting a charity event called The Wake Up @ Lake Lenape. The event is directed towards continuing the conversation about mental health and suicide that is already circling our community. Here in Atlantic County we have faced tragedy and have felt the deep loss of suicide. Together, we have struggled and together, we must continue to rebuild. Not only is this event meant to spread positive mental health, it is an event taking place to show others that there are people who care. This community cares.

Regardless of who you are, and whether you have known it or not, every one of you has been touched by mental illness in some way. Whether it was a brother, sister, friend, co-worker, mom, dad, neighbor, the list goes on. Facing a loss of any form is difficult, but facing one you never saw coming is torturous. The truth is, you never know when you might lose out on a life the way so many have. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. On average, there are 123 suicides per day. These individuals are blinded by hopelessness and isolation. Just because a suicidal person may not be asking for help, doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. Even though you may not be going through a mental disorder yourself, it doesn’t mean that the person beside you isn’t…but what can you do? A lot more than you think.

It starts by taking part in the conversation and helping bring forth change. Speaking up and freely talking about suicide and mental health creates a culture where people can get help without shame. It encourages others to ask for help, knowing that there are people who are willing to lend a listening ear. Being silent and turning a blind eye does not help you or anyone around you. There is no set “program” for good mental health, but increasing the range of choices available for those who need it, increases the chance for more people to adopt and maintain positive mental lifestyles.

You can say “not me” but you should do everything in your power to prevent yourself from saying “why me?” So, for the new year I invite you to spread the mental health message and join the fight against suicide by following The Wake Up Project and if you can, attending the event. If not for you, then for the people in your life you love the most.

And if you are going through something, and you happen to stumble upon this little post, know that we care. Mistakes and defeat are all a part of life’s wild journey. These feelings of self-loathing, despair, or anger are temporary, and you will get through it. Choose to fight through the darkness and the sadness. We are here for you, and whenever you feel like wanting to give up, know that there is so much life worth fighting for. Just because you can’t see it now, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Above all else, stay. Stay because nobody else could ever play your part. You have a purpose and soon enough, you will find it.

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Support the cause and the event by following @thewakeupp on Instagram!

 Visit www.thewakeupp.com for more details

 This special post was written with love. Together, with Sophia Cuerquis.

Put good energy into the world,

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xoxo S

Let Go

Sometimes in life we get stuck in the same old routines because it’s safe. It’s natural for people to hold onto things they no longer want or need just because they are familiar. The thing about life is that it’s constantly shifting all around us. When we don’t shift with it, we risk getting caught up in old patterns that send us in circles. We shouldn’t fear letting something go that can’t fit in our life anymore.

In many situations, negative things are just not meant to be held onto so tightly. The point is to learn from them and then, let them go. Whether we’re holding onto a physical object, a bad habit, or a person that no longer allows you to grow, letting go is a long difficult process. It requires the utmost of strength and courage to allow a piece of your life to slip away but, it’s important to muster up that power when an aspect of our lives is no longer benefiting us.

Breaking out of patterns that don’t contribute positively to our lives is necessary to become a well-rounded person. So, we should always do our best to try new things and make our life a bit more interesting. Life is full of opportunities and sometimes we don’t take them because we are scared to shake things up. When life comes full circle and we discover an aspect that no longer fits in with who we are, we can make one of two choices, we can take a new path…or we can round the bend again.

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It may take a few trips around the sun to figure out what things in life are worth holding onto and what things to let pass but, once you clear out the clutter, form good habits, and find the perfect people your life will brighten immensely. Now that’s not to say the bad things in our life don’t serve a purpose, just that the purpose has a time limit and we shouldn’t extend it if it doesn’t benefit us.  As long as it takes, always push for the positive.

Put good energy into the world, and push for the positive.

xS

 

Staying Motivated

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives the “To Do” list can become a little overwhelming. The days and weeks all begin to run together and the next thing you know, you’ve missed two deadlines and you’re coming up on a third. In my first semester of college I have spent many days standing in awe at the mess I have made of my calendar. Too much to do in too little time and all I want to do in these moments is nap it off. It came as shock but napping it off proved to be less effective than I was hoping. I woke up even more stressed because now I had less time in an already time crunched situation.

Here’s how I managed to motivate myself:

Every day I set an alarm at a reasonable time. I’m not taking over the world so I don’t need to be up at 6am. Some people like the morning so 6am might be a great time for them… I am not one of these people.

In this hour before class I make my bed. It is such a small thing to do but it’s the first accomplishment of the day which sets the stage for more accomplishments. Then, I check my calendar which I set up at the start of each month. For me being able to see the whole month rather than the week makes it easier to plan out my days. Its nice to, “see the big picture”, as they say. After seeing what the day holds I make my “To Do” list.

The “To Do” list is helpful to see how your day will play out. I am always sure to make time for myself in these lists. One hour is always for a breather which I normally spin into a nap… a nap that’s not an “escape your life” nap.

Going to class is obviously on the list along with studying. The motivation comes in during the day because if I get x, y, and z done I get nap time! Then I do some more required tasks and I’ll have dinner with my friends… if I don’t finish my work I have to eat without them.

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I always knock out my day with the gym which is not required per say but totally necessary. Going to the gym is good for me because of my anxiety and also helps me sleep at night. Feeling accomplished at the end of the day helps me get ready for another day of success and it’s said it only takes 30 days to make or break a habit. So, 30 days of being motivated means a habit of motivating myself.

Everyone has different ways to help them stay focused it’s a matter of figuring out what kind of reward to dangle in front of yourself. For me it’s napping, friends, and the gym. For other people it might be alone time or a walk outside maybe even online shopping! Once you figure out how to get yourself in gear it’s best to stay there.

Put good energy into the world, and put good energy into yourself.

xS