Unsaid

April 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Love, but I don’t say it.
There’s too much ache
in the word, too much consequence,
too much, and yet—
it’s still the truest thing,
a weightless thing,
a feeling without strings,
a kiss made of sky,
the whole thing
illuminated by stars.

Come here
with all your troubles,
each imperfect sway,
the swing of worry
in your footsteps,
the grief ripe
in your bones—
pull out all the mess
and need, lay it at my feet,
let me untie your body
from it, gently,
in a riot of salt
and skin.

Sometimes, words are wind-born,
watercolors in the rain,
an echo
of the inexplicable, heartbreak
lost in translation—
give me that, too,
all the sharp things,
unpretty, each heavy heartbeat,
let me hear it—
because love is a touch
that never tarnishes,
a fire that forgives itself
for the way it wants the air—
and here, this is a safe place
for all the things left unsaid.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Luke Perry: A Relentless Kind of Cool

March 5, 2019 2 comments

I spent all day yesterday trying to figure out how to talk about Luke Perry. Not because I knew him, not because I felt like I did – but because loss sometimes hits you sideways. Unlike most people, the first thing I ever saw him in wasn’t 90210 or Dylan McKay; I came late to that party. No, it was Buffy—it was Pike. And he was, for all intents and purposes, my first serious crush. The character of Pike is probably intermingled in my head with my perception of Luke Perry: easygoing, funny, supportive, and ready to throw down when it counted. (Did you hear the story from the 2008 writer strike? Yup, definitely a standup guy.)

Later, when I watched Perry as McKay, I got it anew—the ineffable quality he brought to every role, a roughness that was edged with softness, a leather jacket and a certain look that simply cut right to your soul. He was incredibly cool, without trying to be. There was, no matter what, a great kindness to Perry—and on that, I’m not simply talking about his acting. From the last friendships he made wherever he went to the extra mile he always seemed to travel without even the slightest push, what I will remember most about Luke Perry is his unshakeable, genuine warmth.

People often referred to him as my generation’s James Dean. And to an extent, that’s spot on. They both shared that soulfulness, a gravity of spirit that went well beyond years. But Luke Perry had an accessibility, an approachable demeanor. He didn’t try to distance himself from his teen heartthrob role as McKay. He seemed to carry that admiration straight to his heart, knowing how much that bad boy with depth meant to hordes of people. Brenda and Dylan, the original ship of so many.

Yesterday, I spent time reading all the loving tributes that people wrote about Luke. Each one seemed more heartfelt than the one that preceded it. Sometimes, when someone dies, the sweet words ring less true. This was the opposite. Every sweet sentiment had a weight to it, a love with an undercurrent of grief, as those who loved him began to mourn his absence. Grief, I’ve learned from my own life, is never predictable. It’s never manageable. You can’t know how you’ll get through it, until you start muddling through.

As a fan, I’m sad. But my heart goes out to every life he’s now absent from, every loved one who has to figure out what to do with the empty space. That sudden, devastating hole. Life isn’t fair. It’s incredibly short. And it’s horribly unpredictable. Even when you see a death coming, you can’t brace for it. But when it’s a blindside, a sucker punch? It’s a different kind of hard.

Luke Perry made his mark on this world, through his talent and his innate, radiating kindness. May we all find ways to be more like him. May his memory be a comfort to those he loved.

Rest easy, sir.

Categories: Uncategorized

If you show up with coffee, I’ll probably kiss you.

February 28, 2019 2 comments

The other week, I was having a conversation with a friend about wanting people to give back. This wasn’t about a particular malice. It wasn’t about expecting someone to read our mind. (Look, no one would want to read my mind. It’s a big old bag of weird up there. There’s already too much crazy with an onlooker.) No, it’s about actions over words, substance over show, the little (or big) gestures that carry a meaning that can’t always be put into words. Unquantifiable grace.

One of my biggest flaws is my remarkably relentless ability to get stuck in my own head. I tend to think too much, then then think more about then, and get all stuck in the whirlwind that is my ridiculous brain. Despite appearances, I can be wildly insecure. There’s a small part of me that is convinced that I’m annoying or weird or too much. Probably because through all of middle school, I felt weird, annoying, and too much. Don’t get me started on high school. That was basically the sunken place.

I try not to let the insecurity get louder than a nagging voice. But there are days when it does. There are days where a small slight can turn into proof that I’m clearly the biggest pain in the ass in the WORLD. And the truth is, 99% of the time, whatever that perceived slight is about — it’s not really about me. But, you know, asshole brain.

Anyone who has known me for a length of time probably knows that I’m giving. I give without being asked. I offer without hesitation. And I will, forever and always, fight your enemies — even if they’re nothing more than your demons. Not literal demons, because this isn’t Buffy and no one in their right mind would let me near holy water.

Back to that conversation with my friend: we both came to the same conclusion that someone showing that they care, without having to be asked, matters a lot. That the unasked for gestures tend to makes a person feel important and seen. Being seen by someone, for all our flaws and quibbles, is a hell of thing. It’s a kind of magic, like sunshine and a clear night sky full of bright stars — meaning, beautiful, all of its own. Something remarkable and honest to witness.

I’m often bad about asking for things. I mean, not like, “Pass the pepper” or whatever. But if I ask someone for something that involves their time, it feels like a big ask. Even if it’s really not. But if it is, whew, rest assured I probably sweat that out 30 times before breakfast.

Because I’ve asked for things and been hurt by the aftermath. Or people have offered things but repeatedly just…never followed through. This is not a Poor Me moment. It’s a art of life, that disappointment. It’s part of the humanity of our flaws. None of us are perfect, least of all me.

This life needs more unexpected kindness, unasked for kindness, gestures of love or affection that appear without fanfare. I often remind myself that life does not arrange itself like a grand, bewildering movie. But what if it did? Sometimes, not always. What if we did more surprise gestures and fierce acts of kindness? What if we just showed up with coffee, sent a silly selfie, or cooked a favorite meal? (Look, if you show up with coffee, I’ll probably kiss you. Definitely, I’ll definitely kiss you. Just sayin’.) What if we move the mountains we can move, just to show people we care?

I try to live my life like that, not that I’m always perfect at it. I have my moments and my moods. I occasionally will even hold a grudge. And I’ll never specifically ask anyone to do the same, to take words beyond what’s spoken and delve into action. But it’s always wonderful when someone does, steps up and shows up. It’s made a difference in my life, for sure.

Tomorrow is the first day of a new month. Lets stuff it full of kindness, sincerity, vulnerable grace, unguarded laughter, full-crinkle smiles, and unhindered love. Let’s put some magic back into this world, each day–just because we can. That’s my challenge to you: if you want to, be brave in your affections and attentions. I promise you, I will do the same.

Categories: Uncategorized

wild and precious

January 17, 2019 1 comment

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

~Mary Oliver

 

Mary Oliver was one of my favorite poets. Her words were uplifting, raw, encouraging, and almost always a dare. Her examination of the seemingly mundane transformed an observation into a challenge, an urging to live a full, boundless life—bolstered by joy, propelled by bravery.

 

Oliver died today, and my first reaction was a simple, “Oh, no.” I couldn’t manage anything beyond that, until now. Her words were something I often reached for when I needed to be bold, to turn back the tide of fear that threatened to drown one hope or another. Her words were something I recited like a mantra, whenever I felt constricted by expectations, demands, other people’s fear.

 

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.”

 

She taught me that it isn’t necessary to be perfect. That it is not healthy to crawl in supplication for any reason. I am not less than someone else, and sometimes forgiveness is an unnecessary thing. My life is my own, and it doesn’t have to be flawless. In fact, it’s braver and more authentic if it isn’t. If the mess and chaos of life is embraced, fully, for all its madness.

 

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”

 

Joy is an important pursuit in life—chasing after the things that light us up, that illuminate our days and our hearts. It’s so easy to get stuck in the trap of surviving from one day to the next. There are always bills, responsibilities. But you cannot measure a life based on a mortgage. You can’t even really measure life in days, can you? I like to think it can be parsed out by happiness, the laughter, the uptick of a pulse, the moments of unsettling comfort. That’s a purposeful phrase.

 

You see, you’ve got to shake up your world sometimes. Otherwise, you get stuck in complacency, routine, the notion of “good enough” or “it’s fine.” But if you go after what sets your heart aflame, despite your fears, there’s a true delight in it. There’s a true ease it in, even though it might throw your whole world in disarray. That’s love. It is always, in some form, chaos—if it doesn’t in some way terrify you out of your own skin—it isn’t love.

 

“How do I love you?

Oh, this way and that way.

Oh, happily. Perhaps

I may elaborate by

demonstration? Like

this, and

like this and

no more words now”

 

You can talk about love, crafting perfect metaphors and tapping into words that resonate. That’s beautiful and powerful in its own right. But Oliver is correct, when she points out that words only go so far in conveying love. You can explain love, but that’s never the whole story. It’s never the whole picture. It’s one part of its depth, not the ocean of it. Love, to be explained to the hilt, has to be demonstrated—a creature uncaged by language.

 

That’s how I know love—something with and without hands, something that can take up a whole universe of space and none at all. Love isn’t quantifiable, but it is knowable. You can set your entire life by it, the only clock worth knowing.

 

Mary Oliver gave me this and so much more. She made me a better person and, I hope, a better poet. A light went out with her passing, a cliché in the best of times. But the thing about light is that it often carries so far. The stars shine from far away, and so Oliver will still be with us, shining in her words. We still have that gift and the wisdom she wove so deftly with them.

 

May we all be a little braver, a little bolder in her absence. Tell me what you’ll do, with your wild, precious life? I’ve got hopes for mine—what are yours?

Categories: Uncategorized

In Which I’m Buddy the Elf

December 12, 2018 2 comments

The end of the year is hinting at the horizon, and it always makes me introspective. It has been, to put it mildly, an interesting year. Some good, some bad—some decidedly grey. There’s a lot to reflect on, but let’s be honest: the holidays always make me sentimental. And I’m a huge sap to start with, so that’s a whole lot of CareBear meets Elf (because hugs and omg smiling is my favorite).

 

I’m super proud of the writing I’ve done this year. I’m also proud of the decisions and choices I’ve made (even when they weren’t easy) and the ways I stood up for myself (again, even when it wasn’t easy). Lately, though, I find myself falling into the same trap I often do around my birthday in thinking that crazy miracles happen. Sometimes, I feel silly, having such a ridiculously hopeful personality. It’s something people don’t always get. But honestly, I’d rather hang on to that slanted thinking, pondering impossible possibilities, than not.

 

So, yeah, I’m a sap, dork, nerd, and general unicorn of affection. I’ve never had a small heart, and I’m glad for that, even when it’s lead me sideways. (I’ll take sideways over straight lines, any day.) I’ve been thinking about that, lately. I’ve always lead with my heart; I don’t know another way to be. Sometimes, that means I get hurt. Sometimes, it means other things. For me, a heart is a compass. You can go another direction, but you bloody well know where north is.

 

This year has been a mad, strange one. The turns have been unexpected, the disappointments sharp and jarring. Funny, sometimes, how looking backward with a little distance can bring a precise clarity. People aren’t always what, or who, you thought. The trick is, sometimes they’re not even who they thought they were. And my goodness, how we sometimes lie to ourselves to get through a thing.

 

But I digress, because this post isn’t about that. No, it’s about the unexpected joys, the unanticipated conversations, the way we sometimes turn a corner and find what we didn’t know we needed. You can call it fate, kismet, whatever. But it’s those moments, where you veer off course and reach out a hand and find something brilliant. A risk you take pays off. A text you send opens a door. Something you’ve been working toward finally comes into view.

 

People often eye the new year as a fresh start. And it is; it can be. But the thing of it is, every moment you’re breathing is potential. Even second you have can be the one where you change your direction, change your life. You have infinite chances as long as you’re here. And it can be overwhelming, thinking about that. We like to put things off, sometimes, until a magical moment where it will be easier or we’ll feel comfortable. But it’s just out of fear.

 

Don’t get me wrong: fear can be a motivator. If you’re afraid of losing something or someone, you throw everything aside to ensure that you don’t. You can after it or show up for it, because the alternative is terrifying. I think that, in itself, is a kind of magic. I’ve often made a point of telling people how I feel and how I value them, because I cannot stand the what-ifs and uncertainties.

 

It’s cliché, but if I die tomorrow, I want everyone I love to know I love them. I’m not shy in this respect, because I’ve lost people I loved. And you cannot get that back, that conversation you didn’t have, that thing you never said. You can’t steal a time machine and go back and tell someone you love them. I’ve doubted how people feel, and I refuse to let someone else wonder. Sometimes, this means I ramble a lot. I’m okay with being a huge dork about it. It’s not easy, but it’s honest and important.

 

So, I’ll challenge you to this: tell the people you care about that you care. Friends. Lovers. Crushes. Acquaintances. If you appreciate someone, tell them. Don’t let them waffle in uncertainty or wonder. Because life is bloody, insanely short. It might mean more to them than you realize to just…hear the words. Even if it’s just to say them. Even if it’s just so that you’re heard. People never get tired of hearing what you value about them, what you admire about them.

 

I’m book smart, but someone once told me that I was the smartest person he ever met. I still smile when I think about it. Because compliments often get buried by the bullshit we are told—or that we tell ourselves. So, shout that good stuff. Don’t worry if it seems corny or hooky or cheesy. BE CHEESY. Be sincere and open. Be recklessly loving and brave. Be the reason someone else smiles or feels good about themselves.

 

It has been a hell of a year. Throw some love and some light at the rest of it. You won’t regret it.

Categories: Uncategorized

steal a star

November 20, 2018 1 comment

I used to hate the quiet. Not all the time, but enough of the time. The silence tended to fill up with anxiety or worries or moments that repeated, like a bad movie. Stupid thing I said in seventh grade? Sure. Awkward business meeting? Yeah, why not. Things I left unsaid? Heaps. Piles. A universe of those. A small universe, but still.

Unsaid things are strange creatures. There are a host of reasons we don’t speak up, and they all cast their own inexplicable shadow. Sometimes, we just lack courage, because words are scary. And words are always attached to feelings. And feelings, they can be terrifying. I say that as a person who feels more deeply than is reasonable. Then again, no feeling is reasonable. They’re the opposite.

I went to a family reunion over the weekend. It was the first one I’d been to since my mom died. Every time I thought about going to the previous ones, I couldn’t do it. It hurt too much in a way that I can’t pin down. No, in a way I don’t want to pin down. But I will: it’s hard being there without her. That emptiness where she used to sit, the space she used to take up. I didn’t quite know how to occupy it without her. So, I held myself back, because it was safer. Or it felt safer.

It wasn’t safer. The truth is, when you hold back, that’s the most unsafe you can be. You build things up in your head, all the what-ifs turn into mountains or monsters. It feels insurmountable, so hanging back gives the illusion of safety. A harder truth: safety is often an illusion. It’s something we cling to the idea of, because the alternative is alarming. I could cross the street and have a heart attack. I could trip over my insanely giant, but somehow always underfoot, dog and break my neck. I could choke on the damn taco I’m planning to have for dinner tonight. (Betrayal!)

Sometimes, in life, we hold our breath instead of breathe. There’s no magic in it. Nothing happens, because it can’t. And we lose that time, those moments, the things uncountable and unknown. Time, once it passes, is gone for good. It’s why poets write about seizing the day, the wreck of things we’ve lost or let slip, all the heartbreaks and heartbeats, the kisses, the adventures, the glorious moments we surprise ourselves.

Anais Nin once wrote that we “write to taste life twice,” and it’s true in a lot of ways. It won’t taste the same as the moment, but it’s like a familiar smell triggering a memory. For a moment, you’re back in a car with someone kissing your forehead, walking down an alleyway, or holding out your hand to someone. For a second, you’ve taken time and feelings and put them in a bottle. That’s a kind of magic right there.

All my best decisions, all my best moments—they haven’t been neat or orderly. They have not be silent or withheld. They’ve been noise and mess, calamity and laughter, inexplicable yeses and full of brave. The other day, I was reminded that the best things often emerge from the instances in which we surprise ourselves. The pulse-jarring moments in which we truly, for better or worse, grow.

The life we get is often shaped by outside factors—people, circumstances, choices. But the life we dream about should not be limited by anything. Often, it seems like there’s no way to grasp the hopes we’ve glimpses. The rare moments of bright, unruly madness that shine like stars: far away and breathtaking. But what if you could reach up and steal a star out of the night sky? What if you could rearrange the world—your world—by daring to?

Sometimes, in life, we start on a path and assume we can’t change it. That’s remarkable, decidedly not true. The only time you cannot change something is when you’re dead—or, if it involves someone else, the other person is. If you’re alive and reading this right now, congratulations, you have this moment—what are you going to do with it? (And if you’re dead and reading this, my apologies—and stop stealing all of my left socks.)

When my mother died, I promised myself I wouldn’t hold back when it mattered (for the most part, I have succeeded). I gave myself permission to do the scary things, the unexpected things, the kind of stuff that leaves you smiling at the memory. And the truth is, the more you reach for life, the more it offers you. You owe it to yourself to show up to this chaos circus of a life. To open every door or break every window. To dream big and wide and go after what might seem impossible.

I used to hate silence. I used to hate waiting. I used to hate the unknown. Now, I speak when it matters. I exercise patience when it’s needed (that is still a work in progress). I look at the unknown as an opportunity. Because, man, life can be surprising. What if the surprise, what if the adventure just around the corner is good?

It’s not time to chase after it. No, it’s time to meet it halfway. Pull the stars out of the sky and embrace the whirl of the unexpected. The best things in life are almost always found in the madness.

when desire is an ocean

November 3, 2018 1 comment

The world is a secret, a deep sea,
brined to the brim,
and this slick curve of want
howled itself into existence,
bright as a reborn moon,
swayed by the tide of a kiss,
and then another
until breath is nearly forgotten.

A trail of hands, indelicate,
a sharp shiver,
a hurricane so delirious
it leaves fingerprints of bruises,
little marks
of longing, offered up,
a constellation
of sighs, the shuddering way
one
meets another,
a welcomed downing.

Here, a body becomes wine,
and we are drunk,
then drunker still,
until everything is spinning,
tongues like magic,
turning want
into mess, extraordinary
and honest, no promises,
just the miracle
of the way you dissolve
into me.

Categories: poem, Poetry, Uncategorized