There is a magic
in loving to the ends
of your marrow, of throwing
yourself to the tigers
of other people’s words
for a heart more holy
than Sunday sacrament,
that burns more fiercely
than whiskey, in all the best
The truth is
I have always been a firestarter,
always kissed the lit
match, thrown the game
on an account of flames,
let the forest burn
like a candle, hands
full of fireworks
and melted wax,
with just enough pain
to make it worth
the morning after.
If I am a fool, so be it.
If all my world
has been weighed
and left as nothing more
than ash and ember, so be it.
If you can look
away and not look back,
if you don’t know
love in its rarest form, this
element of madness, quicksilver
and laughter, the kind of kiss
so easy to lean into, backseat
of a parked car
in the middle of our own
Grand Central Station –
if you let fire
slip away like water, bury it
with earth like bones,
then there is nothing
to be said or done. Then
we end here, as if we never were.
But if there’s a spark in you
that you have not outright murdered,
if your kindling heart
has not broken so much
that it no longer beats, if you
still find your clothes smell
of wood and smoke
and your mind wanders
to this girl who conjures courage
in every corner –
stand beside me, when the tigers come.
There’s an exhilarating freedom in knowing that you’ve given something your all. That, no matter how it turns out or explodes, it won’t be because you gave up, didn’t try hard enough, or didn’t speak your truth. This is where I remind you not to be the reason you don’t succeed. Not to be the reason why you stay when you should go. Not to be the reason you’re only living half a life.
People aren’t always going to like you. Hell, people don’t always like me. But you know what? They don’t have to, and you can’t live your life focused on other people’s opinions. Your life, your rules. Your heart, your rules. Your art, your rules. You get the point.
There have been times—too many, honestly—where I have accepted less, for a variety of reasons. I’ve always been the type who understands, who sees things from the other side, who makes (sometimes endless) accommodations. I believe it is important to be flexible, understanding, and kind. Because life is hard and full of asshats, so being the opposite? Well, it matters.
But the thing about accepting less than you deserve is that people will rarely offer you more on a whim. It’s the same in the business world: sometimes, you have to ask for a raise or lobby for a promotion. You have to be your own advocate. You have to be your own hero. You have to stand up for yourself.
I’ve never been particularly skilled at that. I’m more inclined to raze hell in service of someone else. And there have been instances in my life where I’ve put up with things for the sake of keeping the peace or simply to keep someone I care abut in my life. But by java, guys, that is utter foolishness. Poppycock. In short, bullshit.
To an extent, you tell people how to treat you (inherent douchebags of the world notwithstanding). You allow things to happen. You set, or do not set, boundaries. You accept or you don’t. This is the nature of life. By your actions, you communicate what is okay and what is not. And there’s always a line, a moment, a wall – a limit, when you just say…enough. No más.
If you, by words and actions, show someone how much they matter to you, you deserve the same in kind. Friend. Lover. Coworker. Whatever. Respect means showing up, even when you want to run away. So, if you aren’t getting as good as your giving (and dear gods, this applies to all goddamn things), stop. Just stop. Ask for more. Explain your reasoning. And then see what happens.
If someone cares about you and you ask for something, they give it. Period. It doesn’t matter if it seems, or is, impossible. Heart and determination savage impossibility for breakfast, before coffee without so much as pausing to blink. A person can use any excuse not to change, not to try. The word is full of reasons why not, really. But if you really care none of that ever matters. It’s a blip on a radar, not a dragon.
I am not a person who is good at asking. I’m not a person who wants to trouble anyone. But it’s all too easy to forget that asking for something isn’t trouble. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of gumption, of knowing what you want and what you’re worth. It’s saying, “I need this – can you give it?” There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s healthy. Everything in life is a give and take. Everything is a balancing act. And sure, sometimes, you’re on a goddamn highwire thirteen stories up. And yeah, sometimes, that wire is on fire. But you know who matters in life? The people who don’t even notice that flame and walk out there with you. Those folks who don’t ask what’s in it for me, who don’t keep some kind of tally, who don’t dredge up old debts or old arguments on a whim. Those people who make damn certain that you know you matter. It doesn’t have to be in a big way. This isn’t necessarily about throwing a parade. The most important gestures are often the smallest ones: a card in the mail, a kiss on the forehead, a silly picture on a bad day, a random hug. You don’t have to give anyone the stars. A simple conversation can change the world.
Start here. Start now. Give everything you can, until you can’t. And when you can’t, walk away. You are a universe of stardust, full of bones that sing. You are worth more, not less. It’s high time you acted like it.
Tomorrow will be three years since my mom died. I hate calling it an anniversary (because those are happy…or they SHOULD be), but I don’t know what other word to use. Somewhere, there’s a gap in the language, and there’s no right word. So, I’m settling for anniversary, since it is a remembrance.
Does it get easier as time passes? Not exactly. It is just a different ache. Think of it this way: you have surgery to fix your knee. The pre-op pain is one thing. The post-op pain is another. And then the pain you feel, even years later, when it rains – that’s its own thing too. It’s still pain, still a reminder. And some days are worse than others. You take Advil and you get on with the day, as much as you can.
It’s like that. And yes, tomorrow is going to be hard, because you always miss what you love. Who you love. And I loved my mom. And she loved me. Even when she did not like me.
But what I want to do, right now, is give you some advice. And that is to tell you to wake up. To stop holding back. To stop being so practical all of the time. It is important to take risks, to fall in love, to shout that love out loud, and to be the bravest version of you – braver than you even thought you could ever be. Because life is painfully, ridiculously short. And a single phone call, word, kiss, or adventure could change your life.
Point being: change your life. Change it for the better. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and make you laugh. Take a day and play hooky with someone you adore. Tell your siblings you love them. Tell your parents. Tell your kids. Hell, tell that one other person, who you maybe have never told before.
Do not assume someone KNOWS they are loved, even if they do. There’s a difference between feeling it, knowing it, and hearing it. Saying it out loud matters. Even if it fucking scares you, even if it is just to SAY it. Say it, for god’s sake.
Go on one random adventure a year. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant one. Go visit a friend. Go hiking someplace new. Take a road trip with your best friend. Get a massage. Read a damn good book. Sit out in the sun in a hammock. Find out what you love, and do that. Don’t let yourself stay still because there’s comfort in routine. Because you’re afraid of what people might say or think. Because you’re afraid of not knowing how it will all work out. It will work out.
Make art. Make something. I don’t care if you superglue horse shoes together. Or make a macaroni frame or sand art. Make something. Hell, make a cake. Some cakes are pretty. Mine are not. But the world needs beautiful things.
And you need things in your life that make you smile. The day will always have the same 24 hours in it, but surround yourself with people and things that make those days count. And for god’s sake, if you miss someone, tell them. If you appreciate someone, tell them. And as I already said, if you love someone, tell them.
Don’t keep anything in a drawer for someday or one day. Wear heels to the grocery store. Wear a dress to work. Kiss someone in a car or a parking lot. Be silly. Laugh. Hug your dog. Get a dog. Go to a convention. Cosplay. Dye your hair an insane color. Get a tattoo.
Which is all to say: live. Don’t just exist. Don’t just count the days until the weekend, until the clock stops. Because it could always stop in an instant. You may not have any warning. You may have a warning. Neither way is easy.
Take a risk. Take a chance. Make sure your people, blood or otherwise, know they matter. Don’t leave ever a sliver of doubt there. Don’t chance it with someone else’s heart. And never underestimate the power of showing up, stepping up, and showing how you feel.
I forget who said it, and this isn’t exact, but there’s a quote that goes something like: people won’t always remember what you said, they won’t always remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Words are good. Actions are good. But feelings, man – they matter. And in case I haven’t said so lately, you matter. You matter to me. Always. There’s no getting around that. There’s no sidestepping my heart. I’m a big ol’ CareBear.
So, in case you forgot, in case you are doubting, in case you maybe can’t seem to fathom this truth – I love you.
Now, go on. Get out there. There’s no damn time put aside for wasting.
Tell me our love story. Only, don’t use any words – just your mouth. Don’t you know that I’m tired of reading between the lines, finding fault in every unsaid syllable, blaming myself for all the consonants that aren’t quite right? Everything is nothing, until it isn’t. Nothing is everything, until something changes. I don’t care if it comes without warning, as long as it comes. Change. Something to hold on to. Even if it blows the world apart.
I lied when I said this was all I wanted. You must’ve known, must’ve understood. You always could feel the current of my heart. I never meant for either of us to drown in it, but here we are – waist-deep in chaos, trying to pretend that things are fine just the way they are.
It is what it is, and we are what we are. Only, we are more than we’ve ever dared and much less than we could be. I’ve stayed quiet for far too long. Minded all the manners I could tolerate. Walked a line so fine it often felt like razor wire. But that’s not what we were born for. Kisses aren’t circus tricks, and we are not here to entertain. Damn the crowds and all the crows – let the world have its fun. I have never been one of the maddening mob.
But I want to hear you say it. It isn’t too much to ask. The truth may be difficult and far-fetched, but every mirror in my heart shows you. I can do nothing to change the reflection, but I’ve always been brave enough to look, dead on. I’m tired of the way love sometimes feels like an apology, as if it needs to beg forgiveness for its own existence. We are not beggars. This is no last supper. This is no abandoned town made of ghosts. We are not memory. We are curved steel and a prayer made of passion – but I deserve to count the rosary of your bones without a backward glance. Without feeling the fire of your pulse pulling down the forest in your head, thoughts rising like too much black smoke. Darling, we are not made for destruction. But to truly build a new world, we need untied wrists and undone knots.
Begin by telling me our love story. Go on. Every inch of me is listening.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious. ~Rumi
Hand me the matches. The world is soaked in gasoline. It would take only a word to set everything ablaze, to burn down the old and bring in the new. Some things can only grow out of the ashes of what no longer serves. Sometimes, you have to destroy the structure to build a new foundation. There are things worth risking your life for, things worth risking your reputation for. Damn appearances, damn those small minds and tightly wound hearts, too narrow to show compassion or real love. Love is worth the sacrifice of what was, for the sake of what is. Make no mistake: it is not always a pretty sight. It may leave a mess in its wake. It may be chaos and disorder, the world may tilt to the side, things may shatter as they slip off the shelf. But the heart is a thing not to be kept in a box. It is not an object for display. It is not a thing to write stories about – it is the story. Your story. My story. Our story. These are not small things.
To be notorious, I would have to tell the truth. Except, I’ve been telling it for years. The only difference is – who’s listening? And the question is: if given the choice between smashing the illusion of perfection and having you, what would I choose? The answer is as solid as the earth, as essential as air, as passionate as fire, and as cleansing as water. I have already chosen notoriety when I answered the call of my heart. So, why are you still waiting?
I ask the easy questions: how are you? How has your day been? I talk about the storm, the lightning, prattling on about work. As if that’s really what I’m thinking about. As if I’m not wondering about your hands, your mouth. As if I’m not trying to say I miss you in a thousand different ways, but the words vanish when I open my mouth. I’ve gone soft. That is to say, afraid. That is to say, silent.
I don’t want to be the one who says it again, first. The silence after leaves too many scars. And I’ve gotten really bad at waiting, but I don’t say that either. Instead, I ask about work, if you’re ready for what’s ahead. I know the question has more than one meaning. Neither of us acknowledges the wake of it. You give me the easy answer, but I hear the way your voice dips, that half growl. I picture too many things and begin to stammer.
I wonder what you’re thinking – how loaded is that shotgun in your heart? Do you hear the bullet in my teeth? Every now and then, it whispers: you’re going to have to swallow eventually.
Darlings, the second half of the May/June issue of Uncanny is up, for free, on the magazine’s website. So, if you wanted to read the rest of the content (YOU DO), you can. In particular, if you wanted to read my piece (YOU DO), wander over here: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/from-the-high-priestess-to-the-hanged-man/.
I hope you enjoy the magazine as much as I did. Every piece is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m beyond grateful to have been a part of it. That poem is especially close to my heart, and I’m so thrilled it found at home with Uncanny.