Tag: journaling

Back At It Again With The Unsolicited Introspection

It’s overcast in Austin right now. Too many warm, sunny days in a row, maybe. Wind gusts threaten to push me over, but I’m dancing against them – wiggling in place while waiting to cross the street. The light changes and I’m half skipping, half floating over the crosswalk. Giddy happiness feels odd, but I don’t want to scare it away by addressing it directly.

Here I am, a mess of a girl on a stormy day.
I am beaming, brimming, blushing, beside myself.
“Out of the desert and into the sun,” they say.

Rent has been paid for this month. Next hurdle is my car payment, but I’m nearly positive it’ll be fine. I love who I live with and where we live. My boyfriend is the sweetest boy in all of Texas. My family is happy and safe and still as much a circus as ever.

Things are going well.

I haven’t posted anything on my blog since mid-October. One thing led to another and I completely fell off the blog horse (Blorse?)(Hlog?). I’ve missed it a lot, this talking-into-the-void-and-hope-someone-shouts-back agreement I have with the Internet.

One of my closest friends passed away shortly after my last post. She was my friend long before I ever deserved a friend like her, and believed in my poems like no one I’ve ever known. Writing felt silly if Julian wasn’t going to be there to read it. It hurts so much to think about her being gone, and I still break down about it sometimes. A song will come up or someone will say her name and all of a sudden my heart is turning itself inside out.

Two weekends ago, I found a page in an old journal where I had handwritten a text Julian sent me ages ago. I was struggling with something dark and heavy, and I remember reaching out to her for some type of guidance. She assured me, in the gentle, knowing way only she could, that I was infinite and full of dreams watching to be achieved, if only I could not be so hard on myself. She signed off with a line that I think about nearly every day:  “You will escape it soon because so much potential never had stood so still. Okay?”

I wrote something about her death the day before I drove to Dallas for her funeral. It sat unpublished until now because I didn’t feel like it could ever do the pain of it all justice. You can read it if you want, but I still haven’t found a way to reconcile the ache in my chest with words.

So, needless to say, my public writing has fallen by the wayside in favor of internship presentations and nannying and hiking dates and general life things. But, at least this time, not because I fell into darkness and sadness again. No, not this time. I’m right off shore, basking in the sun.

I’m working two jobs (soon to become three?) and volunteering for SXSW and managing social media for a ovarian cancer coalition chapter. I’m hiking when I can and exploring Austin and buying concert tickets and even remembering to clean my room from time to time. I am working my tail off to make it work, and I think it’s working.

I’m really proud of myself for keeping my head above water for this long.
Thank you for those who’ve helped me. I owe you a lot.

I wrote the piece below about coming out of darkness (again) at the beginning of February. The power of suggestion must have worked on the Universe, because I feel amazing. I hope you’re thriving too.

___________________________________

“The Opposite of Memento Mori”

I take the time to snapshot my days. To remember the difference between Monday night and Thursday morning and Sunday afternoon. I spread them out on the rug, dozens of polaroids with my handwriting scrawled across the bottom.

This, I tell whoever listen, is how I dragged myself out into the light again.

This is how I am still alive.

This is how I drive home every day. This is how I find comfort in the same commute: to and from, there and back again. This is how I pull into my driveway.

I rise with the sun.
Half asleep and still groggy,
But not unhappy

This is how you dive into your work. This is how you bury your fears. This is how you stand on your own two feet after all these years.

This is how I learned to hold myself. This is how my favorite boots click on the tile like I know my worth. This is how to put on lipstick so you won’t care that you’re scared of everything.

“Glowing like summer
So men shiver like winter”
Is my new mantra

This is how to shake off those who want you as a stepping stone. This is how to cry when someone says “I love you.” This is how to cry when you don’t know what else to do.

This is how we found center again. This is how we stumble back into each other even though I could have sworn we were running in opposite directions. This is how I kiss you again and again and again.

My heartbeat skipping
Is the butterfly effect
Of this newfound light

This is how I made it. Through two more deaths. Another funeral. Another winter. Another death. Another New Year. Another anxiety attack or two or 10. Another round of rejection. Another avalanche. Another mountaintop.

This is how wings look when they’re finally spread. Isn’t it a sight?

This is how I stayed alive.

___________________________________

“Si vis amari, ama.” — Seneca

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The Hindsight Looking Glass

Some nights get into me like fish hooks. Teeth marks left long into bleary-eyed mornings. Tiny scars to remind you that adventure starts with a simple decision.

“Are you coming with?”
“Yes.”

And then suddenly I am flung into my favorite headspace: sitting in the back seat, music turned up so loud you physically can’t think about anything else, a quick glance and a shared smile.

Let’s talk freedom. Let’s talk summer. Let’s talk that rumble in the pit of your stomach, that happy growl when you bend the rules, that lustful humming of  hubris. Let’s talk being as young as you’ll ever be again.

Nights like these are the ones I am always scared to write about. I can’t find a way to explain the feeling of youth. I can’t hold them long enough to examine them, to pick them apart. The memories don’t stay still. They wiggle and buck and skitter away into the dappled shadows of street lamps.

Your name melts into the folder of things I wish I remembered, but I can’t get the way your hands felt out of my head.

Until this year, I never spent a summer in Columbia. I fled, with the majority of my fellow students, to other adventures. Found home in cities far away from Missouri, from routine.  But from May to July I found myself, college degree (metaphorically) in hand, dancing in summer rain and crying in my empty apartment. Alone, but not lonely (except when I was).

It was a happy, sleepy, sweaty, stormy existence.  Half of it was the mundane pattern of food service closing shifts and finishing my research project. The other half was a fever dream of freedom, of clinging to friends and not acknowledging the countdown to saying goodbye.

Romanticizing the hell out of my life is something I do very well. I can take a stranger at a red light and spin them into a glowing golden lost love. Very basic human kindness sends me spiraling into a mess of metaphors. I am a sappy, ridiculous human being, all sadness considered.

But the months I spent in Columbia this summer practically wrote their own poems. When I was in the thick of it, it was too big to fit into 26 letters. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough, couldn’t swallow enough sunshine, couldn’t hold enough rain in my hands.

I moved home and things slowed down to a quieter existence. I mostly drive my family to work, stress about finding a job and build my marketing portfolio. And, of course, write. Spare time presented itself to me shyly for the first time in ages, and I was excited to examine the life I had lived so decadently for two and a half months.

But every intention of dissecting my summer went out the window with a pain like a train leaving without me on it. I couldn’t look directly into the sun I was trying to write about. Nights blended together — was that the night those creepy guys were staring at us? Or was that the night we made dinner together? Before or after I closed my thumb in a car door?

I have tried and failed to convey how it felt to be there. The haze of vodka and beer, warm in the bellies full of cheap Mexican food and cheese pizza. Passing a cigarette around a circle of friends, unconcerned with sharing spit or lipstick smudges. A pile of humans and dogs in a too-hot living room, singing Action Bronson and Purity Ring and Frank Ocean.

It was art only recognizable firsthand that I am trying to drag back into my home. Records with songs we sang in the car, in your room, on the street.  Candles that smell like rain and smoke, like your shirt, like too much Chinese food. A shadow-box of every 3 a.m. I’ve ever seen: wet grass, ticket stubs, streetlight, bug bites shoved into a frame.

What I did, objectively speaking, was very standard. I went to the same coffee shop nearly every day. I spent too much money on brunch for the sheer nostalgic value. I made a shaky, nervous, giggly effort to flirt. I stayed up late. I watched fireworks from parking lots.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a very standard summer, so why did my heart feel fit to burst with light? I tried to talk myself down, but the warm, syrupy magic of it all never washed off my fingertips.

A misfit band of heartstrings tangled across the radius of downtown. We ran down brick roads. We shared hash browns. We split vodka sodas. We danced with strangers in dark bars. We dragged our un-showered bodies to McDonald’s in time for breakfast. We stood on chairs. We said goodbye.

Friday night, I went out with new friends. We raced down a highway at 11:30 p.m., hungry for beer and loud music and people we’ve never seen before. Or at least, I was. I wanted to tap back into my summer dream state. Less checking Glassdoor for average salaries, more moving through crowded dance floors. Less anxiety-induced shaking, more kissing cute people.

My CoMo summer sits apart from the tail-end of summer I’ve been living at home in Austin. It is a brewing thunderstorm I can’t tear my eyes away from. A beautiful bruise I can’t stop poking.

Andrea Gibson wrote a poem called “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power Is Out.” I can’t remember if they read it when I saw them perform at MU, but I don’t think I would have got it.

I started asking the sun about the Big Bang

the sun said, “it hurts to become.”

I carried that hurt on the tip of my tongue

and whisper “bless your heart” every chance I get

so my family tree can be sure I have not left

you do not have to leave to arrive, I am learning this slowly

Facing truth head-on is much less terrifying when your bones have been warmed by the radiator that is your old heart.

So here are my summer truths: Summer ends because winter must begin, just as winter will end to make way for warmth once more. Noses must be pressed to grindstones in order to afford to buy the next round of shots. You can lose a pair of kind eyes in a crowd as easily as an earring back. Love aches in the best possible way. Long-distance friendships are just as painful as you thought they’d be.

Life can’t always always be a yellow-saturated dream about the madness of youth. It doesn’t have to be a constant grind either.

It’s okay to write 1,000 words about not being able to write down how you fell in love with the simple magic of being.

You can’t always channel heat lightning into your writing.
There is no way to nail a luna moth to your notebook.

 

***

Here’s a video + transcript of the Gibson poem. Get your tissues ready.

#FreeWriteFriday: Things In My Dreamcatcher

12:04 p.m. 

I dreamed about meeting you in an airport. Saving my pennies for a plane ticket. About falling into your arms, about crying with the sheer joy of finally getting to put my hands around yours.

We are jumping on hotel beds. We are watching terrible TV movies and laughing to tears. Building an impressive blanket fort in your basement. There is a dog there, and he curls into the small space between our sleeping bodies. Everything feels right and slow and warm.

In my dream, I am thin and beautiful. You are you before sadness stole your light. You play guitar absentmindedly and I croon along. I sound like Joni Mitchell; You smile like the sun.

It all ends like a sun-speckled dream sequence from a Sophia Coppola film. Flashes of the five Lisbon girls smiling, miniature supernovas of teenage freedom before the darkness comes rushing back. You and I tripping through years and years of “come here, come here, come here,” stumbling over our I love yous because they can’t come fast enough.

***

There is a mystery boy who lives in the very back of my memory. He kissed me over and over, little pecks until both of us were laughing. When I woke him up with the same kisses, he grinned. Tucked his arm around me, tracing his fingertips along my arm. “This is perfect. Let’s just stay here all day,” he said with the sleepiest sigh. I was afraid he could hear my heart fluttering.

He made me roll my eyes and laugh when he threw the cutest tantrum about getting out of bed. He held my hand in the back of my friend’s car, then disappeared.

I don’t think about him often, but sometimes the way the light comes in through my bedroom window puts me back there. Kissing him was a flash of a fairy-tale, a sleepy summer night with the last chapter missing.

***

I miss him with a faceless innocence. I miss you with a painful, misplaced ferocity.

These are the just ghosts my dreamcatcher caught. I am not sitting on the floor on a hotel room with you. I am not drunk on freedom, pointing out fireflies.

I am sitting at my kitchen table, listening to old records and drinking coffee. It’s no longer hot, but I don’t have the energy to do anything about it. My body doesn’t move right. It is big and heavy. I stare into mirrors, screaming silently at myself to change, to stop crying.

You don’t like coffee. I have no idea if he does.
I dump the last half cup down the sink.

12:58 p.m.

I haven’t posted a FWF since April 2014. Whoops.

TFLNM: Sahara Heart

“Sweetheart, what did you bury in the garden?”

My hands are covered in potting soil. I smell like dirt.

I could lie. A coffee cup. A book I love. A letter to a you.
I look down at the ground.
“A hatchet.”

Forgiveness has never been one-size-fits-all. You could sell my car for parts and lose my favorite sweater and I would still take you back. Not like I have much choice. You wiggle your way back into my poems while my back is turned. I find you curled on the couch, asleep, with my diary as a pillow.

I dig holes everywhere there’s room, hiding little bits of you from myself. Underneath my kitchen sink is a stack of disposable cameras I never got developed. Your old sweatshirt is in the shed with the paint rags. The paperback I stole from your bedroom goes out with the next Goodwill donation. I stop buying honey from the stand close to your house. They never put the lids on tightly enough anyways.

I try to scrub the sound of your footsteps out of my kitchen floors. Gone are my favorite writing pens. My old journal mysteriously goes missing. The mix you made me gets lent out to the friend who has never been good at returning things. I sold your bike.

And yet there you are on every dance floor. A touch magnetized to the back of my neck, the curve of my spine. Bodies fit together like gears. Every breath screams “welcome back” without a single word. A friendly ghost I don’t have the heart to scare away.

Maybe I wasn’t meant to get rid of you. Maybe there are stains that never come out, scars you never outgrow. I still cry to the same songs. I still look for you in a crowd. I still write you into every love song.

I forgave you long ago for always coming home. It’s not your fault I leave the door unlocked.

TFLNM, or The First Line’s Not Mine, is a creative writing prompt project. Step one: pick a random generator. Step two: write it out. Step three: hit publish. Let’s play.

#FreeWriteFriday: “A Half-Fiction Saturday”

4:52 p.m.

You tucked a hair behind my ear once. It was storming and I was complaining about how long my hair had gotten, how it needed to be pulled into a ponytail. It happened and we froze. We never talked about how it made me want to kiss you right there in the middle of the sidewalk. How you looked at me, nervous and breathing slowly. Neither of us brought it up again.

Two weeks ago, you were in my dream, out of focus and out of reach. I woke up with hands shaking like my window frames during the rain that lasted three days. My lungs pulled in and pushed out just like they have every day of my life, even on the days when your eyes smile at me and I think my heart might stop.

I woke up with your voice stuck in my head, and I want to hear you reading old Emerson poems out loud while I dry dishes over the sink. I want to hear you humming while you scribble something down in the back of an old journal.

I leave my hair down in the wind now.

5:25 p.m.

This is a mess, but I guess that’s kind of what free writing is all about … right?

A Note About Tragedy

My heart hurts today. It hurts a lot. Between bombings in Boston and Iraq, Syria’s unrest, North Korea’s threats and my own (slightly more trivial) problems, it’s been a heavy day.

In the midst of all this pain, the Internet has, overall, been a wonderful haven. Young people and news sources alike are improving every single day on how we handle bad news, how we spread news and how we treat other human beings.

We’re still so, so far from perfect.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my education regarding social justice, it is that we do not rank oppression. There is not a hierarchy of hurt or a scale for judging whose life matters more.

A loss of life is a loss of life. An act of terrorism is an act of terrorism. A tragedy is a tragedy – no matter how big or small, how close to home or far away.

Yes, there are people in this world who get twisted and stray from that golden goodness that is humanity.
Yes, there are people in this world who speak from places of distrust and anger and bad intent.
Yes, there are people in the world who absolutely refuse to be reasoned with intelligently.

But,
for every one of those people,

there are
five who smile at strangers on the subway just to spread that warm feeling of a good day,
10 who have buried judgement and hatred in an effort to brighten the lives of others,
and a hundred who run into the smoke and screaming and red in order to make sure that people are safe.

And if that doesn’t give you hope for humanity,
then I don’t know what will.

One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. is from a 1967 sermon:

“Modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance. We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish. And yet we haven’t learned to walk the earth like brothers and sisters.

So when you’re standing under a too-hot shower tonight,
feeling your own heartbeat tremble with today’s news,

send up a prayer.

You don’t have to be religious.
You don’t need a god (or a God).
You don’t have to speak.

Just send that prayer of good intent,
for safety and love and warm chocolate chip cookies
and good coffee and sunshine and
to people.

This means sending it to all people,
even the ones whose names you don’t know
and the ones whose names you want to forget.

Humanity is built from the actions of all people.
Don’t you want to put some good, golden gears
into this humming thing?

Don’t you want to be a part of the
humming, moving, dancing Earth
and know that you left it,
even if ever so slightly,
better than it was when you arrived?