Puzzled

I’ve started this post so many times, so many ways, over the last ten months. It always goes a little something like this: I haven’t felt like myself in a while. Or I just don’t feel like myself these days. Or Something is wrong with my soul, and I can’t put my finger on it. 

All the things I love, the things that are so deeply rooted in my existence, the things that are so inherently Ashley, were thrown to the wayside. Books, music, Internet, peacefulness. I’ve been replaced by some anxiety-ridden monster who can’t find a book worth reading, hates everything played on the radio, rolls her eyes at everyone on the Internet, lets her work frustrations carry over into her personal life.

Those pieces have come together slowly over the last few months. Or rather, they made themselves known. They’re waiting for my cue to come back to form the completed puzzle of me, ready to be framed.

I have a mountain of in-progress reads on my desk, but looking at them feels like spotting an old boyfriend on the other side of a restaurant. Anxiety. Looking away. Hoping they didn’t notice the looking-at and looking-away. A little sick feeling in my stomach. Guilt. My GoodReads yearly book challenge even scowled at me for being six books behind schedule to meet my goal of 50 books. I’ve started plenty of books that I’ve given up on  for now, hoping to be enthralled by them later. When things make more sense.

Music has become just background noise to keep me from sitting in silence. I don’t find things that stick to me, make me yell, push me to turn the volume way, way up. One night at the bar after work, my boss asked for a request for the jukebox. I couldn’t think of anything beyond, “Uh, ‘Paradise City,’ I guess.” He gaped at me, thinking I was more hip to the jams than I actually am. The group discussed summer festivals, and none of them seemed appealing because of how little I’m aware of current music. I didn’t even know that Iggy Azalea song that’s been permeating the airwaves. I know.

The good news is that all it took was a little recklessness to figure it out. I took a weekend off work to drive down to my college town, not to relive my glory days, but to see the two friends who made my last semester of school less lonely and more peaceful. We went for walks around the tiny, adorable town and talked about our loves and our lives and the love in our lives.* We made our way to the tattoo shop, where we’ve gone together too many times, got silly piercings, and carried on our merry ways.

The pieces are coming together. I spent a year try, try, trying to be something I wasn’t — a mature “adult.” I desperately wished to gain approval for those fruitless attempts. It was silly. A waste of time. But now that I’ve spotted the flaw, I think I can move beyond it. I’m close to finishing a book, I found some new bands I like, and I’m getting comfortable being in my own skin again.

Here’s to good books and fabulous music and happy summer fun-times. And middle fingers to all the haters.~

*Credit for my new favorite phrase goes to my dear friend Katie, who was born 21 glorious years ago today. Hooray!
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