You think the picture is finished
but it isn’t. It’s true
that my heart is stained glass, but
it is also kaleidoscope, always
reforming, making beauty
out of the impossible,
and I love you
with every shattered
little piece, never questioning
whether or not
you are worth it, never weighing
what is weightless
but still heavy. Kisses aren’t rocks
on scales, and neither are hearts,
there is no balance, only
the promise that it will
all work out. Better men
call it faith, but I am no man
so I call it hope. Sometimes
I whisper your name at night
because it’s the only way
to conjure you next to me.
This is everything I have to give,
heart as open as a church door,
hands like rosaries, waiting
for you to come say your prayers.
I know how it looks,
I know the way empty space
fills up with what’s unsaid,
that there’s no guarantee that god
is even listening – would you be surprised
to find that I still pray? Sometimes,
old habits resurrect themselves
and I can’t stop it. You are not
an old habit. You are the marrow
in my bones, and I don’t know
how or when that even happened,
but here we are. Come
with all your quiet shame, every
bad moment and worst fear, every
ounce of your swollen heart, all the little
nightmares you never let live out loud –
give them to me, and I will
take each pain and make a mosaic
out of what some call ruined,
is its own grace, and some
hearts are bandages
for the wounds
we never admit to even ourselves –
is that I love you
with all that is whole
inside me, with all that is
shattered, too. Sometimes
it is our so-called flaws
that turn us
into miracles, the way light
falls through stained glass, taking
broken and making it into
Sixteen Candles is a fun, silly, wonderful, and fairly clever ’80s film (and yes, it is also deeply problematic, but that would be an entirely different post). It’s a movie where the geek gets the girl, the lowerclassman gets the senior guy, and all those deserving of it get their just desserts. (Darlings, what does that phrase even mean? Because desserts as justice for wrongdoings doesn’t exactly sound like a punishment. It’s basically the precursor to, “Cake or death?”)
My birthday is next month. It’s always been a happy time in my life. I don’t give two canned fucks about getting older. I still climb through fences instead of opening the gate. I will do cartwheels for the hell of it. And I love comics. Age is just a number, and I like what I like. Red lipstick, X-Men, cooking, and wearing my PJs on Sundays.
But my birthday, for years now, always makes me think of the end of Sixteen Candles. You know, when Jake Ryan shows up at Sam’s sister’s wedding, unexpectedly, because he finds out she’s interested in him, realized he’s interested in her, and just…shows up. Kind of like magic.
The ending shot is of Jake and Sam sitting cross-legged on a dining room table (why? I don’t know.) with a birthday cake between them. You see, throughout this entire crazy movie, it turns out that her family forgot her birthday, because of the aforementioned sister’s wedding (officiated by the amazing woman who starred in the ORIGINAL Poltergeist. We shall not speak of the remake. *hisses*).
Sam thanks Jake for getting her underwear back (which she loaned Farmer Ted, aka Anthony Michael Hall, back when he was still skinny and not a domestic abuser!). He says happy birthday. And they both lean forward and kiss over the birthday cake that he’s presumably got her. (Full disclosure: if I tried that, I’d accidentally light my hair on fire, because Rapunzel problems.)
Now, every year when my birthday comes around, there’s always this lingering hope in the back of my mind. The impossible desire for something seemingly out of reach, because life isn’t an ’80s movie. But it’s still there, that insanely stupid want. That lit up expectation that never gets said out loud. I’ve come to expect it, even when I’ve tried like hell to push it away. You can’t push the heart away, even though we sometimes try.
Jake, without any ulterior motive, just shows up. He shows up to indicate that he cares about Samantha. That he is interested in her. And he goes the extra mile not only to return her pink, strawberry-decorated underwear – but he comes armed with a charming smile and a birthday cake.
Maybe it’s not a pink trans am and having sex on a cloud, but as far as fantasies go, that isn’t bad. It seriously gave me unrealistic expectations about my birthday, despite nearly 33 years of life. There’s always a small part of me that hopes, that cranes its head toward the magic of maybe. There’s a small space in my heart that allows for the idea that sometimes life is a crossroads between what is and what can be, and there are some of us always standing there.
And you know what? Even if I live to be 90 and that Jake Ryan moment never happens? That’s okay. Because I think I’d like to hold on to the idea that it’s always possible. That while life is certainly not a movie, and no guy is every going to be Jake fucking Ryan, I think it’s that kind of small belief that keeps a heart open.
And who knows, truly, what this coming birthday may bring?
“The timing was always wrong.”
No. Guys, this is a lie. There’s never a good moment. There’s never an ideal moment. That is a lie, a myth. Life is messy. Love is mess. Chasing after what you want? Also messy. But always goddamn worth it.
The timing is only wrong if there’s no next minute. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Write a tweet. Take a chance.
The notion that things will settle down and the time will be “perfect” is so untrue that it hurts. Nothing is ever perfect. Nothing. Not me. Not you. No relationship is ever perfect. And it SHOULD not be. Real, honest love is not the Hallmark kind. It’s not the kind that wants something. It’s not the kind in posed photographs. It’s messy and honest—and sometimes inconvenient. It knows how to argue without getting its hands dirty. It is vulnerable and honest, loyal and silly, beautiful and absolutely unfiltered. It’s something that you fight for, honor, and cherish—even at 3am and you’re tired. Even at 2pm when you’re running on no sleep. Even when you’re apart. Even when your scared.
So, who do you love? Not who are you expected to love. Forget everything that’s ‘expected’ of you—people will use that to keep you caged. Society will use that to keep you caged.
Who do you love? Who sets your soul on fire? Who makes you smile you didn’t think you could and makes you laugh when you’ve nearly forgotten how?
The timing isn’t wrong. The timing is never wrong to honor what’s in your heart.
Go on. I dare you to. I double-dog dare you.
*title taken from a Mary Oliver poem: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver
Darlings, I am lucky enough to know a lot of talented artists. So, I’ve decided to do a blog post spotlighting one, once or twice a week.
This week, kittens, I’d like to introduce you to my amazing friend, Dani Stinger. Dani recently opened a Redbubble shop, which you can check out here. There is an array of merchandise available with Dani’s art on it (there’s a great Wonder Woman, for my fellow nerds), and once you get a glimpse of her work, you’re probably going to want EVERYTHING.
She is also open to doing commissions, and you can always contact her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/maddarilke) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Now, if you’d like a wider sampling of her art (she’s well-versed in some many different mediums, from pastels to paints), I’d suggest taking a look at the photos on her Twitter account: https://twitter.com/maddarilke/media.
If you look hard enough, you might even stumble across a piece featuring yours truly. Oh, wait, how’d this get here?
*cough* She makes me look good, y’all. I was also fortunate enough to have Dani do the cover art on my last book, I Don’t Love You Pretty, which you can see here.
Every day, I am grateful for her presence in my life – for the beauty she brings into it, with both her work and simply by virtue of who she is. I am honored to know her. And once you see her and her work, I know you will adore her, too.
Explain how secrets
fall like snow, but no one
says a word. Every breath
of protest that forms in the air
vanishes, and there is nothing
to be done about the chill.
what river runs through
your heart and how
the rapids feel at night. How
often are you drowning
from within? How many
oceans have you swallowed?
fear as a constellation. How many
vicious stars does it take
to make you forget the sky?
Why do you let
such false things
lead you home?
I want to understand
of love, the kind
you walk away from, a ghost
given to the grave
without any fight. Bones
are so easily buried,
but I did not think you could
how weightless the heart is
when offered freely
and without teeth, like a soft
neck meant for kissing,
a vulnerable confirmation
of all the worst fears. Gravity
is every inch between us
growing smaller, but
I am starting to forget
the way wanted
unfurls, the way honesty
is a history lesson. Teach
me what I have meant
to you. Explain the theoretical
maybe of what might be,
not what is. I want
to understand you
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.