Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Physics of the Quest

It's been awhile since I've quoted Elizabeth Gilbert ... if only she knew how prominent a voice and presence she has been in my life the last few years. Especially the latter half of this quote tonight:

“I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call 'The Physics of The Quest'— a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: 'If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting(which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments)and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared — most of all — to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself....then truth will not be withheld from you.' Or so I've come to believe.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

I've been on a "journey" of sorts for awhile now. But the truth is, I'm only now facing things I've been avoiding for years and years. And what's more, the universe is throwing so many different things at me at once, it's hard to breathe some days. Like today.

They're not all bad things, but a lot of them are very hard things. I guess if nothing else, it's teaching me that if I keep leaving loose ends my whole life — unfixed issues, unrealized fears, unfelt emotions, unclosed chapters, unhealed scars —They will, indeed, find me. And they'll often be magnified ... and will often pull the rug right out from under me. At least, the last few instances have. The "good" thing is, it gets my attention, which, I'm sure is exactly what that higher power has intended. Because I'm awfully good at pretending those loose ends and issues aren't there. I'm good at evading. But in many ways, over the last several months, things have happened to me or I've experienced things that made me finally "see." Whether it was seeing I was in something unhealthy. Whether it was seeing I had some very deep seated issues with intimacy, whether it was seeing I had scars that go way back as well as more recent ones I hadn't wanted to face, or whether it was coming face to face with my own shortfalls, fixations, selfish aspects and insecurities ... my own fears.

Regardless, in the last seven or eight months, I've felt like the woman I see in the mirror when I stand before my boxing bag — my wrists and knuckles wrapped in black, my hair swept back and my body completely on guard, adrenaline pulsing through me as I wait for the next imagined move, as I deliver a punch to every hurdle, as I block myself from every hit ... but not always in time ... not always quick enough to avoid the air being knocked out of me. Yet I always get back up. This unhealthy place I was once in ... yeah, I got back up. The hurts I've caused, I'm learning from. The pain I feel now, the pain I've felt before, the ways I've been hit in the past, I've learned how to swivel around ... the ways I've hit back, the ways I've risen from a blow ... all of it. All of it reminds me of that woman in the mirror.

In those moments, when I am punching that bag, I feel invincible. When all other times, I feel weak and vulnerable. And I wish I could hold on to those moments long after I leave my hand wraps on the table, after I towel my face off and look at my eyes in mirror — dark, grounded, strong, fierce, passionate, peaceful — I wish I could keep her front and center. One day I will.

That day is just not today.

But knowing she's within me ... actually seeing her in those moments ...  that is worth the work and the wait.

However, along this journey I've been on, I've not always chosen to see everyone I've encountered as a teacher. I've chosen to see some as such, here and there, but I haven't chosen to see them all that way. And I certainly haven't always been ready to face the tough realities or harsh truths about myself that I am facing more and more today ... the ways in which I've run, the ways in which I've hurt, the ways in which I've let my own issues and fears dictate my actions, etc. for a long time. But, I guess all I can say now is, better late ... than never.

And the universe seems to agree ... and I think, quite frankly, has run out of patience for me. I can be exasperatingly stubborn.

But glancing back on my timeline, once the rug is ripped out from under me or my face has been slapped, I've learned the lesson at hand. I've learned it hard, but I've learned it. So, Elizabeth ... yes. I'm going to try my hardest to see everyone and everything as a teacher. I've always craved to learn every single day, craved to expand. And here it's been, in my face, constantly ... in those around me, those important to me ... even those in passing. And I've only caught a handful of lessons ... when there have been so many more to learn.

So as I keep walking, facing hurdles and searching for that strength while trying my hardest not to revert to my past "easy way outs," I'll continue to keep the wise Gilbert's words in mind ...

And I will keep boxing.


Sunday, March 18, 2012


Jealousy is simply and clearly the fear that you do not have value.  Jealousy scans for evidence to prove the point — that others will be preferred and rewarded more than you.  There is only one alternative — self-value.  If you cannot love yourself, you will not believe that you are loved.  You will always think it's a mistake or luck.  Take your eyes off others and turn the scanner within.  Find the seeds of your jealousy, clear the old voices and experiences.  Put all the energy into building your personal and emotional security. Then you will be the one others envy, and you can remember the pain and reach out to them.  ~ Jennifer James

So, this is gonna be a rough one to talk about. But it's one that I figured I'd sit down and write at some point. 

Who likes to talk about insecurities? For me, it's a feeling. If I had to describe it, it's a pang in my heart, a burning in my chest, but feels like it goes deeper than that. It flushes through my veins like a throbbing pinprick and makes my heart pound. Insecurity, jealousy, envy, bad patterns.

But then, my pride decides I'm far too "above" all this jealousy business. So it tries to snuff it out, tries to paint the mask of security and confidence where none exists. Tries to ignore it. And then the insecurities manifest themselves within me and point their daggers inward ... and the cuts are too much to bear anymore.

So, I'm done with that. My pride can sit this one out. 

I've always been insecure, ever since I was a child. I felt like I never belonged. I felt like I was never fully understood. I was a Tom boy, but still girly. I was a lot more outgoing though, as a kid. I was always getting in trouble for talking during class. I was the one doing the chasing when it came to boys. And I loved playing in the dirt. 

Then, something just ... changed. I don't know when exactly, I suppose around puberty. And I became more introverted, shyer. I remember being 13 and riding the school bus to middle school and these 8th grade boys were on the bus, too ... and well, the one ended up doing inappropriate things to me. Nothing extreme, but definitely took me off guard. And he acted as though he had every right, yet I barely knew him. It was really the first interaction of that kind I'd had with a boy ... and I froze up and just let him. 

It's strange, because I haven't thought about that experience — and this happened more than one time on that bus — in a long time,  until recently, as I've been delving into patterns I've had over the years and figuring out when they started and how to break them.

This blog itself has become a HUGE pattern breaker for me. I'd never had the courage to write about these things, let alone share them with you all and put my immense trust in you as a result. But here I am. Doing just that.

So, that was the first time (that I can recall anyhow) where something was being done that I wasn't OK with but allowed. As I'd written about at the start of this blog, my realization is that what happened to me later on at that house party was a continuation — albeit much more severe — of that kind of reaction. Yes, I was vocally clear about things then, but still, I froze up and didn't fight back either.

I don't know why I react that way, but at least I've now gotten an idea of when that change happened. I do know that the feeling I felt on the bus was confusion. I remember ... that was the first real time I ignored my "instincts" and instead convinced myself what was happening was OK and normal. And that dialogue has become a regularity in my mind since. And it unfortunately led to worse situations and outcomes. 

I remember feeling like I was not pretty enough then ... that I could never possibly compare to all the other cute girls in my class. I remember feeling inadequate, a late bloomer, awkward, an outcast. So if a boy was showing me attention, surely that means I'm worth something.

That pattern has been going on ever since I was little though. I'm not sure why ... and what's more, I never acted on any of the attention I'd actually get, I'd run the other way actually. Yeah, I was that girl. And it's been this double edged sword since. Because nowadays, despite "running," my heart and emotions are almost always affected. Even when I try to "pretend" they aren't. So this defense mechanism doesn't do much by means of defense these days. Maybe it had its place then, to protect me somehow, but if so, it's long over stayed its welcome.

Anyhow, my point in talking about all of this is, these insecurities I've felt ever since I can remember fuel jealousy and envy. But for me in particular, I turn jealousy and envy inward, which ... sure I don't hurt anyone else in the process, but I hurt myself. I hurt myself in the worst ways. It's just another way I try to absorb things and self sacrifice, like I have with men. It's something I've allowed myself to do that hasn't benefited me at all. In the past, I'm pretty sure it's contributed to me freezing up, to me disassociating when something overwhelming was going on around me or to me, to me running and shielding myself, to me both yearning for a relationship with someone and being terrified of them.

And I'm tired. My body and mind are tired. So I'm going to do the exact opposite and turn it outward. Acknowledge it, get it out of me and put it here. And I'm going to take it a step farther. For every insecure and jealous feeling I have right now and have had off and on for awhile, I'm going to acknowledge something about me that I believe makes me worth something. Because like the below O'Connor quote, I think it's vital for all of us to do this every time we feel insecure or lost.

Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self worth.  Each of us has something to give that no one else has.  ~Elizabeth O'Connor

I'll never be truly happy  — I have been happy many times in the past. I will be happy again. I feel it inside me with a certainty I cannot ignore. And that voice has never steered me wrong once.

Everyone and everything else is moving and changing around me and I am being left behind — I am moving and changing with everything around me. I have never been left behind. I am holding hands with the most important people and elements in my life ... and they are holding mine.

I will never be enough — I will always be enough, because when I truly embrace myself, who I am, what I have to offer, all the amazing things inside me aching to be shared, all of my gifts, my inner beauty, the question of whether or not I am enough doesn't even exist

I have so many mental and emotional scars, how will I ever trust myself again? — I have been blessed with a great sense of spirituality and an inward dialogue with my higher Self since I was very young. That guidance has never wavered ... I just haven't always chosen to listen. I am listening again. And I will trust again.

If I let someone go, I shouldn't get envious or jealous about the ways they've moved on — But when I love, despite my efforts to guard my heart, I love deep and true ... and I'm not superhuman. The feeling is evidence that someone affected me. It's an evidence of life and I'm choosing to turn it into something positive.

I will never gain my footing — I have pretty strong guides inward and around me. I will always regain my footing. My soul insists upon it.

I will never let go in love the way I once did — Oh yes, indeed, I most definitely will. I must love myself again first ... and I will. And when it happens, I'll never take it for granted again. When it happens, it will be for the right reasons. When it happens, I will pour all I have to give to help it grow ... and when it happens, I will be at a place where I truly see all the reasons I am loved.

I will never not be scared of men — I come from a long line of very strong, independent women. I know the very one inside of me, too. She flutters past my eyes on a daily basis now. One day, she will take up permanent residence. And she will never allow herself to be treated badly again. She will never treat someone in kind. And she will never allow things to be OK that are not OK. 

I will never be ... — I will be.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Swallowed Heart

So, I'm feeling a bit subdued tonight, despite the warm weather. It did lift my spirits a bit, but all in all, my heart feels ... well, if I had to describe it, it feels full and heavy.

But there's also this feeling of life underneath the heaviness, if that makes any sense. Sort of like a rosebud coated in ashes. It may be buried beneath soot and it may just go overlooked, but I have to believe it'll grow again. I just have to.

It's hard sometimes, for people to understand why someone stays in an unhealthy situation for so long. In my case, it made me question my entire ability to read someone, to have faith in something that felt so real at the time ... hell, I can only speak for myself, but it was real to me.

Promises are scary things ... if I let them, they have the ability to feed my every weakness. They have the ability to capture my loyalty and lock it up for months ... for years ... in this case.

Part of my current melancholy is the rawness of breaking patterns. Of feeling the loss of someone and something that, for good and bad, altered me. Just feeling. I know it's part of this "process" I'm currently working through, but it really robs me of smiles these days. It makes me cry some nights.

The fuel of friendships, positive forces in my life, my own progress in rebuilding myself and a sense of independence are currently what sustains me. I'm done creating situations where someone (a guy in most cases) feels like they need to swoop in and rescue me. I'll be just fine.

But ... that doesn't mean loneliness doesn't set in at times.

So, I feel the heartbeat of poetry thrumming inside me right now. Though it'll be more of a stream of conscious kind of flow I think. It'll be more of the same ... I'm sure, but as I've written past posts/short stories about some of the bad, haunting, ugly stuff I've experienced; that's not what pulled me in ... no. Motives and outcomes aside, that's not what kept a part of me holding on for so long, believing for so long. And I think it's time to finally write out and release some of the stuff that did ...

Swallowed Heart

Words ... so many words, everything, nothing, talking to you was as easy as breathing.
Nature, hand in hand, following breath against the earthy fall breeze
A sudden pause, a turn, eyes lit with emotion, "God, you are a beautiful creature," ... blushes, glances to the side, heart racing.
"Thank you."
All the confusion, the fear, the trepidation swept aside ... by piercing irises the color of the sky
Should I trust?
Hand flutters to my cheek
Yes ... yes I trust.
Eyes delve deep ... I can no longer look away, you
So many nothings I spoke, but they were my most wonderful somethings
Your eyes spoke them, could it be?
Home ... familiar somehow, warmth, life, my best friend
Is that what this feels like?
Everything slow, connected, nothing rushed
Is that why it worked so well? That's me ... that's the key to me
How could you know?
You knew ... you knew me
Fields, sweet breezes, kisses in the rain
Dancing on the tops of your feet, girly, giddy
Piggy back rides, how I loved and hated when you swept me up
Languidly sprawled out atop rose petals upon blankets
Your full mouth, chords low, bringing to life the pages before you
Igniting my insides
Poetry, inspiration, dreaming ... my muse
Butterfly kisses, giggles, belly laughs
Love ... love
Picnics, scavenger hunt ... flowers, you.
Stagnancy brought to life ... me
Your eyes uncertain what I see, I pause, I look at you,
"Passion. Spirit. Beauty"
So easy then, once I was in, to say it all as it flowed through me
To pour it all out, bringing tears to your eyes
Whispers against my ears, smiles that touched your temples
You called me soft ... you were once soft, too
Your lap, arms around me, guitar strumming against the wind
Words, so many words
Delicate hand to my lowered chin, lifting me up to meet you
Friendship, promises of old and gray
For all the black, every story has white
And this ...
This was mine


Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Night Phenomenon

I've spoken of this "late night" phenomenon before, but not in great detail.

This Fitzgerald quote always hits me:

In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day.  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

There is a rawness inside, at least for me, when night falls. I feel vulnerable and exposed somehow, not just my mind or body, but my soul as well ... especially when you get deeper into the night, like that 3 a.m. point. There is just something ... something there that's hard to pinpoint. But for me, it's this out of sorts feeling, a discomfort, but not all bad. Just a bit ragged. 

Sometimes I'm driving late at night or just sitting at home and there is something about the darkening skies, being cloaked in shadows, that just haunts me in a way hard to describe. It feels as though the weight of the world, of my emotions, of people of my past and associated memories press in on every part of me like a hundred hands.

It ignites a combination of feelings really, which is what makes it hard to explain. When I was younger — and this happens even now every once in awhile — I would be walking outside at night and suddenly be overcome by this feeling of disgust, at least, that's what my cousin and I used to call it. The "disgusting feeling." It was like a combination of feeling violated somehow, used, tainted, seduced or manipulated ... or sometimes, an ominous feeling of foreboding.

I've never been able to figure out the trigger either. Just that it almost always happened at night and oftentimes when I was outside. And it would assail me out of nowhere and settle deep in my stomach.

Nowadays, however, as I've grown into a woman — one who has experienced so little in some ways and so much in others — the nighttime spurs very different feelings.

I feel both a swelling inside, like I've got so much running through me, I can hardly think straight ... but I also feel like I'm being drained from my core. The actual emotions range, but oftentimes they are melancholy. However, when I've actually shared my nights with someone, I mean, truly "shared" them — it's been quite some time now—the night has a way of evoking this life in me that is hard to contain once it takes hold.

The moonlight, the stars or how my breath mists in the cold air all affect me in the acutest ways. And if I'm inside, just lying next to someone, I feel a deeper connection to them somehow, like all the walls I keep up to "protect" myself these days and in the past, crumble beneath me when I'm sharing this seemingly mundane occurrence — nighttime.

Conversely, if I'm alone and not keeping busy, I often do feel the pinpricks of solitude against my insides. Or sometimes, so many story ideas hit me at once, I don't know that I'll ever get around to writing them all. But it's as though I'm suddenly overcome by my muse and unable to channel it all at once.

And again, during those moments, especially if I'm alone ... I feel a bit lost in the dark.

However, as of late, I've noticed I am no longer yearning for just any presence or any pair of arms to comfort me. I feel my mind trying to escape the things I'm feeling, but I'm forcing myself to stay with them this time and I realize that even when I do that, I'm no longer looking to find distraction in someone else.

And that, if nothing else, is progress.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Language

A poem begins with a lump in the throat.  ~Robert Frost

As I continue to try really hard to stay with the things I'm feeling rather than revert to running and diverting, I'm going to just keep channeling and writing ... who knows, maybe I'll create something beautiful out of hurt or pain. What better gift could I give myself? I'm tired of running and trying not to feel stuff I've avoided feeling for months and months, and even further back than that. I realize it's only prolonged the process of moving forward. I can't afford to scrutinize it anymore, judge myself or bury it. I can only observe it and just let it be what it is. So I'm going to own it.

It'll get old, I'm sure ... to some of you ... and may not make sense to others. But I've sacrificed enough of myself for others.

I'm doing this for me. 

My Language

You spoke to me … your ocean eyes
Incessantly flying inside, teasing the edges of my heart
You spoke to me … you knew
I was young -- yes … old, young, barely touched
Never so deep
You spoke to me … your mouth
And I, soaking it up like an arid sponge
Wanting the dream
I still dream
You spoke to me … your breath
Secrets buried beneath my skin, aflame
And I, tumbling, falling, terrified, elated …
You spoke to me … your spirit
Confusion burning at the fridges, choking
So many firsts – pure … tainted, taken, given
But no, I didn’t lose … I feel lost
You spoke to me … your heart
Contrived, feigned, manipulated, real … to me
You did not take, though I feel taken
But no … I gave

And I’ll give again


Monday, March 5, 2012

Closure? Perhaps ...

I watched a movie recently. There was a scene in it where the main character and her best guy friend are walking and he turns to look at her her, exasperated, and says "God, when did you become one of these women who waits?"

She stops mid-stroll and just stares at him. Because it hit. It hit me, too.

Because I was that woman. I still am some days. But the universe does strange things. And after an emotionally, mentally and physically overwrought and exhausting week where I found myself falling on weaker moments of second guessing past decisions, it decided to show me two unexpected confirmations (though I'd been searching for one anyway) of something I already knew ... forcing closure down my profoundly stubborn throat.

It also cut straight through me.

Logically, I know better. But the heart is never logical.

Because the truth of the matter is, when I reach a point where I know a decision of some kind has to be made, part of me (and this is something I've done more than once in the past) makes the decision that I know or believe to be the best one to make. However, there is often a piece of me that still holds on or hangs back, just to see what happens. I may have enough foresight or plain common sense to KNOW what will happen, but that doesn't mean I don't hold out.

That said, I'm admittedly the type of person that sometimes needs something to smack me in the face before I choose to acknowledge its reality. And at a time when I finally stopped distracting myself from feeling the emotions I should I have been feeling and working through since the end of summer — causing them to hit me all at once — I find it no coincidence I was equally hit in the face with two very random references that gave me the certainty I'd been looking for. As if to say — Cassandra, now you know. You have to let go.

The whole hindsight is 20/20 cliche is a cliche for good reason I suppose. Because it's one thing to "know" something while it's happening, to know you're in something unhealthy or to know you only have half the story in front of you the entire time. But it's another thing to actually SEE it for what it was. To stop dreaming and start accepting. Because, I'm a dreamer. I've always been a dreamer. But sometimes, dreams, at least at their current state, don't come to fruition. And I'd be extremely presumptuous to assume I know why. Because, the truth is. I don't know much of anything. I can just have faith it will make sense one day.

And as for the concept of "closure" which I've always taken issue with, I suppose I'll find out how that works. I mean, personally, right now anyway, I happen to think on some level, the notion of "closure" is idealistic. I think we can find peace in things, yes. But to truly find a sense of complete closure from someone or something that changed your entire life, that's tricky. However, I don't claim to know much of anything anymore. I've been very wrong in the past. So I could very likely be wrong here as well. Guess ... time will tell.

Anyhow, I'm going to shift gears here and list a few things people near and dear to me have said in the recent days, including my mother, that have helped me get through a rough patch, things I have to start actually BELIEVING in ... as well as some links, quotes and poems shared.

10 Good Reminders for Stressful Times

"You'll always be my little girl, but you are a strong woman. You are good, Cassandra. And you deserve good things in your life. You deserve to be loved right."

"It hurts because a Bandaid got ripped off, but that's OK, because it needed to be. You are a beautiful, courageous, capable woman. And you deserve to be with someone who adores you."

"How bad can our lives be when we've got great animals like this in them?"

"Btw, you are not pathetic and weak. You're insightful, intelligent, beautiful, romantic and overly trusting."

"You know what sets you apart from every other woman I've ever met? Courage. Your blog, most recently. But also your articles, your compassion, your heart and your smile. Real courage shines Cassandra. And you shine."

"There isn't anyone else I could imagine being prouder to be in the presence of."

"I'm proud of you Cassandra. And I believe in you."

Me: I know. I'll get through it. It just seems unfair somehow.
"It's more fair than you think sometimes. We'll get everything we want some day, Cassandra. Because we'll be happy, healthy individuals all on our own."

"Yes, of course it's OK that you're a mess. Let it be what it is today. Cry. Scream. Punch things. And tomorrow, get it back in control. Don't spiral after all the progress you've made. It's not worth it."

"Here's something that should cheer you up ... Robert Plant and the gang. From me to you, with a whole lotta love :-) Led Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Love

"There's a saying I like that goes something like this..."Fall down 7 times, stand up 8." Love you, Ms. Cassandra. ♥"

"Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean." ~ Maya Angelou

"Sounds like it's time to take one of those moments where u space out, drink something warm, take some breaths that you concentrate on, and do that thing where you think about the present, not the past or future....."

"*hugs* You know I'm thinking of you."

Life must be understood backwards; but ... it must be lived forward ~ Keirkegaard.

Your love should never be offered ...
by Hafez
Love sometimes wants to do us a great favor: hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.
Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a stranger,
Only to someone who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.
Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.
Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.
There are different wells within your heart.
Some fill with each good rain,
Others are far too deep for that
Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.
Even after all this time the sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me”
There is no pleasure without a tincture of bitterness.

 Love's Simple Truths

"Love is as essential to us as air; a force that drives us all. It determines who we are, who we become, what we can achieve and, through this, how the world will evolve."

The lovely Gann always draws a smile (thanks Claire)

This song came on my iPod in the car ... been on a Florence kick for some time, but her voice hit hard tonight:

"To the crowd I was crying out and/ In your place there were a thousand other faces/ I was disappearing in plain sight/ Heaven help me, I need to make it right"

No Light No Light

"Cassandra, I've raised you. I know what's in you. You have good intentions. Some people will want to take advantage of them. But you deserve to be someone's number 1. Never let anyone tell you different."

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

"Stay strong. I love you."

While I wanted to collect these sentiments for my own future reference on rough days, I also wanted to share them because, I don't always know how to express how much people mean to me, in my life, but you all mean a lot more to me than you'll ever know. And you know who you are.

Thank you for being my sustaining forces


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Portrait of a 21st Century Journalist

8:09 a.m. Text message from boss: Shooting at Chardon High. Get in ASAP.

8:12 a.m. Are you serious?! Anyone get hurt? Heading out now.

Jump in shower, oh my God, shooting ... shooting. Chardon. How is this possible? Hot water gets hotter, shampooing, conditioning ... I'll bet every news crew in the greater Cleveland area is already. I wonder if anyone's hurt? Turn heat higher, lean forward, water streaming down back. I look at my knees ... I stare at my knees and I know this is big, but it hasn't sunk in yet. I need something normal, so I look at my knees. I send out a prayer to the Universe ... Give me strength to do this the best way I can.

Dress, car ... I play my iPod instead of turning on the radio. I can't listen, I need to get in the zone before I get there, I know from the moment I arrive, the noise will flood me and it won't leave for a long, long time. How do I get in? The back roads, Cassandra. Take the back roads. I see police lights, I see police cars, I see news crews. I see cars lined up every side street. I find a spot. I see the middle school. I see a line that looks a mile long of people, parents, waiting .... waiting in the cold for their kids. News crews swarming the area, CNN, Fox 8, ABC, CBS, AP, NPR, Plain Dealer ... me. Me. How do I compete with this? Before I know it, the carnal adrenaline hits, the heart races. I pull out my video camera, I shoot ... I just start shooting everything, parents standing, talking, reuniting with their children, clutching them. It's all I see, parents touching their children as though they'll never not touch them again. Holding onto their arms, ruffling their hair, crying, clinging, hands on shoulders, as though afraid to break connection. It's foreign to me somehow, but insanely familiar at the same time. I take deep breathes, I realize I'm shivering ... I didn't dress for this. I see the big wig networks ... they're pushing in, they're prying, they're trying to get more from the Lieutenant. He sees me and nods ... we're the community newspaper, we're the heart. This is our backyard. I have to get the info out. I have to get as much information as possible out. That's my job. We're small, but this is our community. This is us ... this is our job. I realize this and I let loose.

 Phone comes out, Tweeting, Facebooking. Small news brief from lieutenant starts, I home in, others swarm over, like moths to flames, microphones, huge cameras, lens, note pads, digital cameras, flip cams. I tape. I tape and as I tape, I tweet on my phone. Five victims, not four. One shooter, in police custody. All we know at this time. I tweet, I facebook, I read other posts, I talk to some parents. I touch base with my boss, my co-workers. Hot coffee, thank God. Someone brings hot coffee. I suddenly realize I can't feel my fingers, my face is numb from the wind. Superintendent spots me, Hey Cassandra ... he says softly, as though he's in shock, but happy to see a familiar face. It takes me aback. I say, "Hi Joe," he keeps walking. His face now solemn again, bewildered, lost, found, scared, strong. The media swarms in, asks for updates, I move closer to try and stand on the outskirts and overhear, I tape. I tweet, Facebook.

The balance, balancing rumors and accuracy, immediacy, responsibility, competition, the drive, the hunger, the adrenaline, the shock, the overwhelming want to prove myself, to this right, to do right by the community, to help, to get as much out as I can, to compete with the big guys ... to prove it's possible. We pull our resources. I realize we've got an edge most of these guys do not. We've got long-time build relationships with these authorities, we've got a lot of 'Off the record' stuff, we've got a lot of "on the record but anonymous" confirmations, we've got rapports with people that are deeper than anything I'd see at any other publication ... and here we are, a community paper. We break a few things, we hear rumors of his name. We confirm it with people, they aren't allowed to be named. But the public is hungry for information, starving for updates. We give them what they want, but I try to keep my eye on the ball. Facts, information, reactions, testimonies, backlash ... there is always someone who hates us, there is always someone who is going to hate what I'm doing, who is going to judge every moment, who is out there while I'm in here, who hasn't a clue what this is like, ... the 21st century journalist ...

Update, one student has passed .... two in critical condition. Tweet, Facebook. Get names? Do students know who was shot? Hear names, check other tweets, other newscasts. Talk to other journalists. We're competing, but yet, we're on the same page. We share info ... the nice ones anyway. The one's who "get it" the ones who see the bigger picture. News. Facts. Information. Fast. We talk, we share, we look into it, we confirm, we throw away, we post, we write, we take pictures. Sensational journalism someone says, I ignore it. I feel the heat inside, I feel the adrenaline. But sensational is going to always be thrown around in tragedy. Everyone has different approaches. But getting reactions, getting quotes, getting information from those who say they were there, what they saw ... people want to know. But balance, balance, accuracy, sensitivity.

I look at parents, I look at crying kids. I start to feel things ... I stop myself. I put it on lock down. Not now, later ... not now. I don't know a single person, but I feel. I feel. Then I stop, I refocus. Facts. Hours pass, updates. Victims are status quo. Who was he? What was he like? The public, the state, the country wants to know. Who was he? Hoards of media push through, find students who knew him. We hold back a bit. I decide some of this is OK to repost, to attribute. To share information, to use others' information. We don't ALL need to push through. We don't ALL need to bother these kids for the sake of competition. But the drive is still there, make no mistake. It's always there. We Facebook search, we talk to some people, we get a feel for Danny. We post pics, we let the public tell the rest. We let them comment, we let them interact. We let the social media do its thing .... its living and breathing thing. It's changed the face of news and the world, it's a breeding ground for news to surpass even us as well as a dangerous stream for rumors. Weeding through it all is key ... yet we're all learning. We're all adapting, we're all trying to figure this shit out.

I get back, i write. I write with everything I have in me. I question myself. But I write. Get the hard facts out Cassandra. You can't throw in emotion right now, you can't narrate. Get facts out, updates. Keep up with the bigwigs, they're gonna get ahead no matter what ... but stay with their pace right now until as much info is out.

Pride of work exhausts me. Pride of work, job responsibility, everything that's been embedded in me, trained in is at work. Everything that about this industry now, the digital age, the era that has transformed life and the world and my industry as we know it. It's here. It's now. I have the tools, but I don't have enough resources. I can't be everywhere at once. Co-workers help post, help write. Help cover. We spread out where we can. We try to hit up what angles we can. I feel lost. I feel the day weighing on me. I feel the sponge in me begin its soaking. I feel wrecked and it's slowly bleeding me.

I'm obsessing now, I'm reading tweets, i'm caught up in the media frenzy ... I want it to be perfect. I want it to be perfect in the middle of chaos. I'm unrealistic. I'm hard on myself. But I want it to be right. We break more news ... we find out about a detention hearing. We know everyone will find out anyway, and will be there regardless.

Rumors trickle out about a second death, but no confirmation. 12:45 a.m. I hit the pillow ... exhausted, yet restless. Sleep is not restful. I wake up early. I have to get in. Update stories, reports of second student pronounced brain dead. Another press conference. Facebook, tweet. Who was this kid? What was his personality? My God, we still have other stories to edit. we still have a second, small shopper paper to put out. I still have other stories to look over, we still have our main paper to lay out for Thursday and proof on Wednesday. But the shooting is where it all is. More press conferences ... we hear rumors of a third victim, we all already assumed this as of Monday afternoon ... hearing brain swelling, surgery. When you get life flighted to Cleveland Clinic ... you know it's not good. But still,  you don't expect it fully. You hold out, the hope in you. But then the news hits. A third. The family issues a statement. It's canned. They're always canned. How can they not be? How can the family really want to say anything? How can they wrap their minds around it? I can't imagine. No, I can't allow myself to imagine. I have to keep working. I turn it off. I get texts from concerned friends both days. I answer quickly. I get comments on Facebook ... supportive. they carry me. I feel completely alone. I gravitate to other journalists I know in the industry. Old co-workers.

They help carry me, too. But I feel lost, like I'm doing this alone in some ways. The 21 century  journalist, single woman ... I have cheerleaders, but not "that" cheerleader. And in that moment, I realize how much I miss having one. I put this aside. Now's not the time. I update. Press conference, the gunman is there. Slight, expressionless, calm, "yes sir" ... "I do, sir." Nothing else. Nothing. Nothing about him stands out. Not like some of his Facebook pictures. He could blend in anywhere. He's just a kid. His slight frame ... he's just a kid. And look what he did. He destroyed three lives, their families' lives and an entire community. A kid.

I shake these thoughts. I refocus. What now? His background. I profile him. We try to balance. We do story on healing as well, we talk about upcoming vigils. We talk about the hard facts, too. Another 14 hour day. I try to find some down time. I walk my dog. He's been so cooped up. But I'm on the phone, checking info. Filling friends in. Answering concerned texts and calls from people I didn't even expect.

They help. I feel lost and alone, deserted in some ways, critiqued even, second guessing my instincts ... but supported in other ways. I wonder if I'll crack. But the support and positive feedback trumps any doubt. I post videos, I follow news feeds. I update stories. I edit others ... 1 a.m. It all hits. I finally hits. I lose it. I cry for over an hour. I feel the weight of everything hit ... of feeling like everything I was trying to carry, some of it on my own, hit. I miss having a cheerleader, having those arms, having that voice to calm me down, having that person who "gets it" .... who gets me, who knows what this is like, who gets the industry, who knows how hard it can be not to be affected, to have everything be put in perspective to a point where things people are bitching about, people are posting about, seem completely ridiculous ... and trying to keep THAT in perspective. Trying NOT to project. Trying to be sensitive to those things anyway. Trying to remember that not everyone understands. And while I'm here, so many others are facebooking about drinking, about a sunny day in another state, about classes, about trivial irritations, about TV shows.

I laid there. I broke. cried, I cried hard. I wanted those kind of understanding arms around me then like I haven't in months and months. I talk out loud for a bit, feeling better. I finally fall asleep at 2 a.m. It's restless. Four hours of sleep. I'm up. I edit some more. I proof the paper. I can barely focus. I'm in a haze. I decide to dedicate the rest of the night to relaxation in SOME way. I succeed in waves, but something inside of me. I weariness never feels rest. I know I'll have to write about this. I know I'll have to purge it here. I know I won't edit it. I won't sensor it and I'll be terrified to post it. I know all this days ago. More information floods in, records have been released. We update information. Facebook, Tweet. Upload new stories, pictures, videos. Thursday ... today. The march. Students return. They are facing the school. I get there. It's overwhelming. But the support amazes me. My heart fills, but I keep it at bay. I must talk to some people, but I can't push. This is their moment, this is huge. They're re-entering a place that doesn't symbolize safety anymore. They're entering a place that has housed tragedy. This time, I DO let myself feel a bit. I do let my heart bleed a little and let it resonate in my tone of voice, in my approach. Quiet, careful, I gauge people. I sense the energies that want nothing to do with me.

I don't blame them. I watch TV crews push, prod. I stay back on the edges. I find a few, I talk, I let them talk. I record. I tweet. I facebook. I shoot video. I'm freezing again. I walk with them a way's. I see the high school sign, donned with candles, teddy bears, red ribbons, photos of victims, note to victims. I soak it in a moment. I share it with the Facebook world. I move on. Phone always out, notepad and pen ready, video recorder in palm. the digital age journalist.

This is the first story I feel "good" about. I take time, I feel my back and neck burning. My scoliosis kicking in from shivering in the cold. I get back and write, while checking for updates. Several other events go on all day. we have to prioritize our coverage. It's not easy. The journalist in me wants to be  every where at once. Wants to touch it all, breathe it all, report it all. But I know I can't. So we fall back on sharing information, on live feeds, on using media to help media. Gunman is charged. That puts a dent in other things, but we put it together. First march to healing story done. I feel good about it, but still weighed down. I'm in a daze I can't shake. I haven't been able to shake it since Monday. So many stories left to tell, beautiful ones, hard ones, tragic ones, breathtaking ones and hopeful ones. The others will eventually leave. And only a few of us will remain to tell the stories of the picking up of pieces, of the days of moving forward ... of justice. They'll come swarming back eventually, but we'll have had our finger on this pulse, as we've had long before them. We'll still be here and I'll still be trying to do my best. I'll still be searching for that balance ... embracing the tools we now have while trying not to let them drown me.

The 21st century journalist.

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