Tag: writing

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 It sat unpublished until now because I didn’t feel like it could ever do the pain of it all justice.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.

Thought Stream: Buttercup

Writing online is a lot like shouting into the void most days.

You sit down, type, edit, start over at least once, ponder metaphors, pull up Thesaurus.com and wonder why you can’t think of synonyms for “call,” type more, look at Twitter, pretend to read through your work and hit publish. Your post gets 50 views. Your friends comment nice things. Your mom shares it onto her wall.

Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you hit a vein. People show your words to their friends. Hundreds of people leave comments. A poem you didn’t think anyone would relate to suddenly has 300,000+ notes. Strangers on the Internet nod their heads in agreement. You get to, for as long as you want to milk it, bask in the knowledge that you are a Good Writer. That maybe, just maybe, you weren’t coddled into thinking you were a writer or a poet. That you actually have skills and inherent talent. That you could sustain a living by writing. That maybe you could cobble together an collection of poems for publication.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work like that. You work for two days on a poem. You breach a painful dam in your chest and let yourself feel loss. You cry, head on the table in front of your computer, because things should have been different, things should have worked out. You write and re-write and edit and cry again and write and write. You push yourself into the crawlspace you’ve been avoiding, that realization you never wanted to see written out. And, terrified and proud, you publish it. It gets 16 notes, most of which are from close friends. Cue the panic that maybe you aren’t cut out for poetry. That your words are silly and cliché. That the metaphors you slaved over don’t even make sense. That you should have studied science and left your notebooks in your childhood closet to gather dust.

You pull it together. You wipe your nose. You absorb the hit, storing it away for a Later Meltdown and move on with your day.

***

I have a habit of repeating information about myself. People usually don’t remember things about me, so I add them into the conversations. Salt-and-pepper epithets to jog people’s memory of simple personal facts. Little answers to questions I got tired of hearing. Instead of answering the painful “Wait, where are you from?,” I simply beat them to the punch. I’m from Texas. I’m a writer. I’m a lefty.

I never really noticed it until two of my friends (Hi, Sparks and Nathan) poked fun at me for it. “Oh, you studied in Brussels?” “Wait, where do you work?” The painful (painfully funny?) part was that I didn’t realize they were mocking me. I thought they legitimately didn’t remember where I went abroad or that I worked downtown. Finally, after the 100th “I work at Chipotle,” Nathan laughed kindly and looked straight at me.

“Hanna, I know you work at Chipotle. I’m just kidding.”

***

I’m forever stuck between writing only when inspiration hits or writing every day as practice. Actually, let me rephrase. I want to write every day. To fling words out into the world and get better. But what actually happens is I sit down, can’t think off how to put my feelings into sentences, close down my document and go back to watching makeup tutorials on YouTube.

Imagine one of those Expectation/Reality scenes from “500 Days of Summer.” On the left is me publishing a collection of my writing, grinning next to my husband Matthew Gray Gubler (who fell in love after reading my poems online). On the right is me refreshing Twitter for the millionth time while trying to decide if I did anything remotely Instagram-worthy in the past few days.

I delete half of what I write. I don’t like half of what I publish. Most of my poems repeat themselves. The same phrases crop up time after time. They’re usually about a boy. I am always alone. It’s hard to put a pen to an exposed nerve, to talk that final step into recovering from a broken heart.

Why make yourself look sad and hopeless on the Internet time and time again when you could, you know…not? I could leave the writing to Andrea Gibson, to Shinji Moon, to anyone who isn’t me. I could stop trying to reconcile pain into poems.

But pain demands to be felt.

***

Today has been a weird day. I woke up angry, on the edge of a panic attack. I felt a misplaced shame for liking things that aren’t “cool.”  I felt ugly and too big and sad and exhausted. This happens to me every so often — the result of post-grad stress and wonky brain chemistry.

Every day I say that I hate writing. Today is no different. It’s okay to feel a little resentment toward the thing that keeps you alive, but makes you work for it. Writing is a solo act. It, by nature, isolates you. It makes you feel.

But I wasn’t alone. Leah texted me and assured me I was allowed to like whatever I wanted to like, regardless of rude people. Amelia reminded me that I am important no matter if I am lost or found. Jackson made me feel less weird about having a silly crush. My sister bought me tacos.

I put on some soft music and made myself write. I drank cold water. I let myself feel.

***

I learned (way more recently than I care to admit) that my voice is important. That I shouldn’t put up with bullshit from immature boys just for the attention of the male gaze. That people who don’t make me a priority in their lives should not be a priority in my life.  That love is everywhere I turn.

Every day I am reminded, with incredible clarity, that I am not in the same middle school setting which twisted my self-esteem so many years ago. My friends remember little things about me. They celebrate my accomplishments. They’re proud of me.

I learned that, despite every self-conscious anxiety-induced fear in my head, people listen when I speak.

That sunshine feels good. That it’s okay to lay in bed all day. That writing isn’t supposed to be easy.

So I shout into the void. I write apology letters with torn-up eviction notices. I throw poorly-folded paper airplane poems out of open office windows.

Sometimes, something sticks.
Sometimes, the void shouts back.

I am no longer invisible.

“Keep writing, kid.”

A poem! And what poem would that be?

 I told myself (and y’all) I would learn to be brave and post more creative work on here, and I’ve been slacking. Here’s that poem I told you I wrote this weekend.

My Longest Love Affair by Hanna Jacunski

The grandmother in front of me calls out to a mop-top toddler.
She half-laughs the same nickname you gave me,
and everything stops for a heartbeat.

Just like that, I am in my room alone.
I was screaming underwater and you were timezones away,
playing music too loudly.
Crying cat-in-a-cage howls. Aching, desperate, hungry.

Just like that, I am beaming.
Holding my own ribs. Exploring my own skin.
A little sparrow preening because someone was proud of her
for making it through the night. Patient, new, open.

Just like that, I am dreaming about you.
A silly fantasy that you fit into, despite every worry otherwise.
A line of love threading year after year together. Warm, tired, constant.

The world jumps into orbit again. Mop-top and her grandmother
grab their bags of peaches and milk and eggs.
I trip forward and pay for my groceries.
You ebb at my ankles and then wash back to low-tide.

I’m okay now. I exist outside of your attention.
I stopped selling you for parts,
desperate to see you in the people around me.
They are their own chewed fingernails or half smiles or messy hair,
not yours.

I’m okay now. I don’t feel guilty when someone sleeps in my bed.
You don’t lurk in the corner of every sad song.
The aching went away with the wishes for reciprocity.

I’m okay now. The nickname is simply a serpent with good intentions.
The last puzzle piece pushed into place.
A key in a lock. The weight of two blankets in the dead of winter.

I’m okay now, bug.

 This piece means a lot to me, so please be kind. I’d love constructive criticism if you want to drop me a line. Also: these aren’t the original line breaks, but I had to edit the formatting a bit for WP specs.

Yoga Drought and Writer’s Block

Yoga gets me in my head a lot for an activity so focused on presence of mind and body. On Sunday afternoon, I went to practice for the first time since Alaska. My mom and I walked in two minutes before class started, giving us enough time to spread out mats out before a soft voice was asking us to take a seat and close our eyes.

I’ve always found that picking up yoga isn’t quite like riding a bike. There was no bobble of balance, no wind in my hair. My body moves with an ease and familiarity that I never quite expect. Flows feel second nature and breathing becomes intentional.  My heart centers and slows.

The aching I’ve been feeling for the past few days dissipated with each heart-center. Tired, weary muscles energized and came to life in every half-prayer twist, in every down dog. I moved with both instinct and intention as I sank into chair or warrior. I felt capable. I felt good.

A few years ago, I went to an early evening practice at the rec on campus. The sun was going down, and golden light poured into the quiet studio. Silhouetted against the mirrors, we stood in tree pose. I remember looking at myself to check my posture and realizing that I felt beautiful. Dressed in all black with leftover mascara, my hair pushed back with a soft headband, barefoot on my mat. Strong and still and surrounded by strangers.

For someone who has struggled her entire life with her body image, accidentally feeling pretty is enough to bring me to tears. There was no 20 minute makeup routine. There was no tugging at tops or fussing with jeans or changing into something that covers up more. I was not concerned with how others would interpret the jiggle in my arms. It was a singular freeing moment that I’ve been chasing down ever since.

Me practicing yoga is a lot like me writing poetry. I work really hard on it and then drop it for months. It stretches bits of me I didn’t realize were there. It usually helps keep my anxiety and depression at bay. I don’t know if I’m any good at it, but every time I do it, I want to go back for more.

I’ve been working on poems recently. Like, actively working. Like, sit-down-and-write-four-stanzas-and-rework-and-edit-and-write-more working. There’s a spoken word piece in the works, and I’ve been dabbling in flash fiction. I’m trying to embrace the struggle of creative writing. It’s nothing like blog posts. I can open up WordPress and dump my thoughts onto here with decidedly less effort. I type the way I talk and tell stories, without too much thought about meter or line breaks. Poetry, on the other hand, is much more labor intensive. And, for the same reason, much more cathartic.

I wrote one over the weekend that I’m actually really proud of, and I think I’m going to post it on here. There’s something so intensely gratifying in finishing a poem, especially when it’s been sitting in your drafts for days. I opened a vein I’ve been babying for months and worked out every drop of “I love you but.” It wore me out. It made me almost cry. I nearly trashed the whole thing, but the person I wrote it about read it and told me it was incredible.

When it was all said and done, I was left standing in the sun, feeling beautiful.

What I’ve been trying to say is that yoga and writing are the two things my soul is forever itching to do. It’s time to practice things that push us gently toward betterment. To work hard on understanding hard feelings. To letting pain give way to prayer and poems.

Here’s to strength of muscle and mind. Here’s to feeling beautiful.