Opposites Intact

As everyone knows, America isn’t doing so hot, politically and socially. But this isn’t a post about despair. This is my personal obstacle-ridden story of hope for anyone who feels pessimistic about America’s future, or even the world’s future.

Travel with me back to 2015, for a moment. The Obama administration was on its way out, and that presented the two main political parties with a chance to put their best guy or gal up for the vote in the following year. Blah, blah, blah, cue the anger and hatred from all around. My current relationship had humble beginnings that also happened to be in the middle of 2015. Lucky us, right? Well, sorta.

In the honeymoon phase of dating, everyone puts on a nice happy front for their partner. You avoid political discussions. At. All. Costs. Except we couldn’t avoid it forever because the tension was all over the news and creeping into all social media platforms as well. So naturally, these issues would find their way into our daily conversations. And when we discovered that we are political polar opposites, that’s when the problems really began.

The real kicker is that these arguments and problems stemmed not from incompatibility with each other, but from the immense pressure that bombarded us from everyone else’s hysteria. The entire country was an echo chamber of frustration that felt impossible to escape. And it magnified all of our individual insecurities and doubts that come with a new relationship.

After an exhausting year, several break-ups, and several getting-back-togethers later, he and I came to a point where we just couldn’t fight about politics anymore. It wasn’t worth it. A relationship is supposed to be your place of comfort. Despite what I’ve been told, I realized that politics really have nothing to do with my relationship. I think we both pictured ourselves with someone who believed the exact same things as us, and that’s just not how it panned out. So we essentially had to re-teach ourselves how to talk to one another, and this surprisingly re-shaped how we viewed each other.

If you want to know the big secret to mending a broken relationship, I think it’s humor. Constantly joking around is the biggest thing that we rely on, in my opinion. We have the same absurd sense of humor, and we’ve found that laughing together at our problems (big or small) is far better than getting angry. He’s the only person in the world (besides my sister) that I can come to, completely pissed off, and he’ll make me laugh so hard that I’ll forget what I was mad about in the first place. I think sharing the same humor is more powerful than anything else, because it makes the other person seem so relatable, so human. And that’s what we were missing before. We were allowing outside influences to make us dehumanize each other.

But with laughter, we’ve realized that we are not enemies, no matter what the media or anyone else tries to tell us. As cheesy as it sounds, we’ve learned to drown out the negativity with our giggles. Neither of us are Nazis or terrorists. Neither of us are incompetent, hateful, or evil. We both share a passion for important issues, we just disagree on how to go about solving them. And that’s okay, we can deal with a difference of opinion. Because at our core, we are the same. He is just as compassionate, logical, capable, driven, and loving as I am. He just happens to be much funnier, but I’ll let him have that.

After 3 solid years of getting to know so much about the best person I’ve ever had, I would never allow something as minuscule as political differences get in the way of us. Now, we’re in such a good place that we’re even able to make light-hearted little jokes about each other’s political leanings, and nothing bad ever comes of it. We each allow the other person to be themselves in their entirety, and that’s the most important thing in not only this time frame but also this country. And despite the notion from others that dating a Democrat or dating a Republican means that you need to change them, we both know that’s not true. We are the biggest force to be reckoned with, because we refuse to hate each other for our differences. Our mutual respect is our strength. If anything, dating someone who is the opposite of me has strengthened my political beliefs. I’m sure he’d say the same thing. And that just goes to show that neither of us is here to stifle the other’s growth. Even if I don’t always agree with him, I would defend his right to be respected and heard, just like I know he’d do for me.

I know there is still hope for the future; we’re just hitting a little rough patch as a country. All it takes is for us to have a little humor, have a little respect, and find strength in leaving opposites in tact.

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Horns

My zodiac sign is the ram.

The actual animals are known for protecting/watching over their herd. Biblically, the ram is a symbol of sacrifice.

Lately I’ve felt like a shining example of both interpretations, sacrificing my own happiness to protect others’ happiness. It’s driving me mad spreading myself so thin that I don’t have the time/energy to pursue what makes me happy. It’s nobody’s fault, really. When you always tell everyone “yes,” they start expecting you to keep up with that pace because they don’t know it’s destroying you.

Now, I’m beginning to embrace the astrological view of the ram. It describes some of my better traits that I’ve sadly been silencing for a while. The zodiac sign of the ram is stubborn, passionate, straightforward, courageous, and unapologetic about who they are. They fiercely protect their loved ones while making sure they don’t neglect themselves in the process. They know how to put themselves first when they need to. I’m learning how to balance, by giving myself the same time/energy I give others. You’ll always be unhappy when you ignore who you truly are and what you truly need.

It feels good to have my horns back.

A Chameleon’s True Colors

Chameleons have become society’s symbol of adaptability. My experience in raising one tells me exactly the opposite, but this makes me love them even more.

In 2013, I became a pet parent to the most relatable and misunderstood animal I’ve ever crossed paths with: the veiled chameleon. Initially, I wasn’t fully prepared for everything that this entailed. But if there’s anything that a driven, perfectionist, animal-lover can be trusted with, it’s a high maintenance pet. *The lengthy list of their needs is included at the bottom, if you’re curious about what exactly I got myself into.*

I was absolutely mesmerized by her colors and patterns, just like anybody would be. She actually got her name, Melon, from one of her most striking patterns that made her eyeballs look exactly like the striped exterior of a watermelon. But she wasn’t standing in front of any watermelons; veiled chameleons don’t change their colors to adapt to whatever they’re surrounded by. They have a set amount of patterns and colors that their skin will shift into, depending on what their mood is.

Melon was typically a light green, which means she was feeling calm. She would develop dark brown stripes against the light green if she felt threatened, and she would puff her neck. Her vibrant teal, orange, and green pattern would show itself when she was feeling excited. And only once in her lifetime did I ever see her turn a deep brownish grey, which meant that something was really wrong.

She had a commanding presence about her, too. Any time I would walk into our room, she would nearly run down her branches and claw at the two glass doors at the front of her terrarium; she demanded to be let out of her cage almost daily. I had actually been told by the pet store employees that chameleons are more for display, and that you shouldn’t handle them very much. Melon had other plans, though. I listened to her instead. (She also didn’t like hunting for crickets in her cage. She eventually had me trained to the point that I would hold the crickets by their antennae and hold mealworms in my palms for her to fling her tongue at. She didn’t want them any other way.)

I’m glad I listened to her. She was like my miniature stern-faced queen with her own little built in crown. And I had never been more in tune with a pet. She was just like me: very particular, very cautious, assertive, had resting bitch face, was a natural observer, was also an explorer, was naturally petite, and thought of herself as fierce while everyone else just viewed her as cute. She never tried to be anything other than herself; it never occurred to her. And she hated going to the doctor. (She hissed at and bit the veterinarian, and I couldn’t help but think ‘that’s my girl.’)

So instead of adapting to her surroundings, I watched her unapologetically remain who she always was. Whether it was her colors or her general attitude toward this strange thing we call life, she actively resisted change. And I’ve carried that with me, because she greatly contributed to who I am in this ever-changing, anxiety-inducing world. She showed me that you can find power in communicating your feelings and trusting your instincts. And you can do it all without ever changing. Sometimes, you can make the world adapt to you. (She certainly made me adapt my world to her, and I was honored to do so.) I saw her true colors, and that’s why I loved her.

 

*Here’s that list I promised earlier*

Veiled chameleons need:

– A large, well-ventilated terrarium (because chameleons don’t stay small forever)
– A UV lamp
      – (Part of the tank needs to be a cool area, 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit)
      – (The other part needs to be a warm area, 90 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
– A 12-hour light/dark cycle
– Thermometers for monitoring these temperatures
– Calcium-dusted crickets, waxworms, and mealworms
      – (If you’re feeding with crickets, you must get a cricket-keeper as well)
      – (Mealworms/waxworms just need to be stored in your fridge)
– Daily fresh collard or mustard greens
– Branches to climb on (I always collected them from my front/back yard) 
– A hygrometer, or humidity gauge
      – The humidity in their terrarium must always be between 65% – 80%
– Consistent misting with distilled water by way of a spray bottle and/or a mist/drip
system

– Moisture-retaining substrate for the bottom of the terrarium

 

Anxiety Is My Superpower

My mother told me that my spirit animal must be a hummingbird. I’m practically a blur to her, always rushing from place to place in a frantic rhythm. You’d almost think that my quick pace must mean that I’m on time to everything, right?

Wrong. Couldn’t be more wrong. I’m a panicking, fluttering mess with a concept of time that frustrates others and ends up confusing me. I always feel that I have more time than I actually do, but that’s because my consistent panic is slowing my perception of it.
A common phrase in society is “life is short,” and because of my anxiety, I disagree wholeheartedly.

I can back this up with science, I swear. Dr. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist that I discovered while watching a mini-series he did on PBS. (Here’s an article for reference: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129112147). Eagleman says that it has to do with memory. Your brain typically won’t hold on to most of the details of daily life; it’s too overwhelming. But in a crisis, it vividly records every bit of information possible in an attempt to understand what’s going on. My guess is that it’s a survival thing.

This is most likely why I feel like my life has been very long, even at the age of 24. My anxiety slows time down for me because I’m constantly worrying about what will happen next. There is hardly ever a time when I’m not observing and analyzing everything going on around me, as if I can prepare for the crisis my imagination tells me I need to prepare for.

And while it drives me up the wall and makes me late to everything, I still feel somewhat thankful for my anxiety. It makes me who I am, and allows me to live in the present in a way that many people don’t. Everyone experiences life in their own unique way. My way just happens to involve stopping to smell the roses and worrying about their thorns the whole time.