"Let's exchange the experience"


To set the vibe, I recommend Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush.
To set the visual vibe, I recommend the above picture. What's seen? A reclamation. 
To set the emotional vibe, I recommend Max's Song (Full Scene) from Stranger Things. This changed me. This is life's experience of running, shared in raw honesty, and seen by millions. 
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You know those things that you share with someone else? Maybe it's a favorite movie, or an inside joke. A song, or a physical space that you visit and you both deem as "ours." And whatever that shared thing is, it is so special when it's shared. It is so special because it's shared. And then, sometimes, the sharing ends. The relationship you had with the person changes, the thing you shared changes, you change, something changes. But no matter what changes, the "thing" is still there - and what happens to it? That movie, the joke, the song, the space, who's is it now? It was once called "ours," but when there's a change, what's it name? Does someone reclaim it? Is it left alone? What happens?

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For me, I've experienced this reclamation with my love of basketball. I was in a relationship where we watched the Sixers every chance we could get. We would go to Sixers games. We loved the team. I even began to follow the team on my own time. I read articles, looked at stats, and even watched games when we weren't together. This team and sport felt like it wasn't only "ours" but it was also "mine." So when a sudden, and needed, break up occurred, what in the world was supposed to happen to my love of the Sixers. In addition to all of the things I lost as that relationship ended, did I lose them too? And while I developed my own passion for the sport and the team, could I watch something that had started as a thing that we shared so deeply? Or could I leave it alone and in the past and run from it quickly?

Through tears and conversation I began to accept that even though my sharing of the Sixers was over - in ways that I was originally used to - it didn't mean that I had to give it up completely. I had been operating in this brain space of, "well if I can't have it how I want it, then I guess I'm not having it at all." But honestly? I didn't want to give up the Sixers. I loved watching the games, going to the games, reading and following a team that was my hometown. I loved the Sixers. So emotionally, I decided that I would rewrite and reclaim my experience of being a fan. Instead of watching the game with my ex, I would turn it on in my apartment while making dinner. Instead of going to the games with him, two of my best friends and I decided to go to a game where I verbally announced, "I want to rewrite my experience of being a Sixers fan." It was with that declaration that I felt myself begin to heal the tiniest bit. I bought a Sixers lanyard for my 9-5 job. I put my dog's Sixers bandanas on proudly for playoff games. Slowly, I began to watch games on my own and go to games with more friends. I normalized the experience of loving this once shared thing with new people and soon, that became my norm. 

The Sixers were reclaimed as something that I loved. Yes, that initial team fever and passion happened when I was in a relationship, but it didn't end when the relationship did. And over time, the love of the team didn't bring up painful feelings of all that I had lost. Instead, the love of the team showed me that I could transform (much as the team did during that time) and find new ways to love and grow with something treasured alongside me. I remain a passionate Sixers fan. My dogs still have the bandanas and I still watch games every chance I get. And all of that makes me smile, because it is a love that I rewrote for myself. 

I am proud of my above experience because it reminds me of the transformation that is possible in life. My above experience takes me out of my brain and into my knowing that things DO progress. But, what you don't hear above that is equally as important as the knowledge that progress does happen, is the deep depression and encompassing anxiety that I experienced at this time of my life.

(WARNING: Stranger Things Season 4 Spoilers Ahead)

I have been in another reclaim and rewrite journey, and this one looks at that depression and anxiety right in the face. This time, it's with Stranger Things. A relationship ended and one thing that we shared together was watching this show. It was an unspoken agreement that we would watch season 4 together. But we didn't watch it within the first month it was released. And then that turned into two months, and then more, and then the relationship ended and the season remained unwatched.

I was familiar with the feeling of wanting something to progress from "ours" to "mine" (re: the Sixers), and I was experiencing those feelings again with this show. I loved Stranger Things. Did I really want to put it down and run from it because I had shared it with someone? Could I let myself love the show and acknowledge all of the tricky feelings that might come with that? Tentatively, I thought yes, but then I delayed watching the show for months. I even got to a point where I thought, "hey, maybe I never actually need to watch this - I'm fine!" But the desire to watch the show remained and this time, I didn't have a group of people I could watch it with for the first time. This time, it was going to be up to me to start rewriting and reclaiming all on my own. So, before a three hour flight, I downloaded some episodes onto my phone and plugged in as my plane took off. I thought that putting myself in an inescapable situation, aka a flight, would help me to avoid running from watching. Because if I'm being honest, that's what I had been doing when I thought I never needed to watch the show or that I could wait on watching it forever. I had been running. And it wasn't just running from watching that I was doing, it was running from really looking at this relationship ending and this transformation for what it was - loss, grief, opportunity, sadness, laughter, and joy. In my running, I wasn't letting myself embrace what is because I thought that if I kept moving this transformation would never catch up to me. But in reality, the transformation only ran faster. 

So with literally nowhere to run, I started Stranger Things Season 4 on a three hour flight. And what did I see? I saw transformation in the show. I watched a manifestation of everything that I was feeling - sadness, despair, feelings of depression, and all encompassing anxiety - be made into reality in the character of Vecna. I saw my lived experience - the loss, grief, and sadness - control characters as they ran from support and friendship that could show them that transformation could also bring opportunity, laughter, and joy. I felt like I was watching a creative interpretation of my personal feelings during a relationship ending and transforming. And I realized that if I continued to run and hide I would be consumed and maybe lose myself in pieces of sadness to the point where I wouldn't be able to find a way out. My flight landed and I was struck. 

I temporarily put the show out of my mind. I picked up my metaphorical running shoes and began running again. Not from the show this time, but from the realization that Vecna - the manifestation of these feelings of depression, anxiety, despair, and sadness - could be something that had a hold of me. I didn't want to admit that I felt low. I didn't want to admit that I needed support. I didn't want to ask for it either. But my thoughts kept returning to Vecna and while I didn't admit how I felt or ask for support, I decided to continue watching the show. 

In episode 4, one of my favorite characters, Max, reckons with Vecna. She is straight up TRAPPED in his clutches and on the brink of no return. Her friend's have tried to connect with her to show her she has support, her well-meaning school educators have tried to talk with her and have been met with lies, and her mom has tried to reassure her that all will be well, but Max is running too far away from anyone's support. So, Vecna grabs her and gets ready to consume her livelihood. (If you're like me, you are on the literal edge of your couch with your eyes wide and full of tears). And then as her friend's refuse to give up on her, Max hears music and is reminded of the love that is swirling around her in spite of the fact that she's been running. So, Max turns and runs to the music, runs to her friends, runs to the support.

When the episode ended, I was crying. I could not think of a more poignant and horrifying way to show the deep clutches of anxiety, depression, despair, and sadness. I could not imagine another way to tell someone how it feels when you reclaim something. When you decide to run, but not away, but towards the support. And towards the feelings, towards the potential of opportunity, laughter, and joy in the journey and on the other side. Running towards all of that can feel like a grief and a loss because it's a choice to run away from what was once "ours" and run towards what can now be called "yours." Running towards is both exhilarating and horrifying. And all of that was captured in this beautiful episode.

I won't spoil the rest of the season. I will tell you that even though Max ran towards something new, it wasn't without trials. And I think that's a lot like our lives. When we run towards something, it doesn't mean that the pain of what we've chosen to leave behind doesn't sometimes try to follow. It doesn't mean that you still don't have days where it feels like Vecna is close by. But it does mean that on those days you aren't truly going it alone. What have I run towards after this reclamation? My family, my support, my wellness, my dogs (in their Sixers bandanas), my friends, and myself. It's not always easy but it's not lonely either.