A year can teach many things. As suspected, or learned, they are not all easy lessons. In fact, if you are paying attention, few are easy. But each has its place, a reason for being, a story to tell, a wisdom to impart
Grab that wisdom for all your worth, even if it merely takes the form of acknowledging its existence. See it for what it is, without looking away. Flinch, if you have to, but steady yourself. Learn the things you that are before you to be learned. Otherwise, what’s the point of living? Growth is essential to being.
This year has not been an easy year. It has taught me many things, some of which I found I did not want to learn. As a kid, my first line of defense was always to bury my head in the sand, like an ostrich. I try very hard not to do that anymore, because it doesn’t serve a purpose. I’m not braver. I’m just wiser. Sometimes, wisdom leads to bravery. Sometimes, the opposite is also true.
I’ve always been a fan of mistakes. That kind of action is how one learns. If we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of trying – knowing that failure might happen – then we are, in a way, quite dead. We’ve stopped growing and learning. That is a living death. It is a sad thing to see, and I’ve seen it – though, I’ve not personally experienced it.
But mistakes. Sometimes, they hurt. Sometimes, they are a thing quickly healed. Sometimes, they walk as our shadow. But we need them. They show us who we are and who we’d like to be. They prove we are reaching for something beyond our grasp, and we’re fond of limbs and leaping with eyes wide open. They show up that we’re alive, and sometimes foolish. But being foolish is preferably to living timid and scared.
Live wildly, within your limits. You know what those limits are. Do not allow others to set your boundaries, because you are the one who lives within them. Dance often, sing loudly – and make things. Growing up, I could not sew on a button. Now, with my grandma’s sewing kit, I can do much more than that. It’s a small thing, surely, but I can now fix and mend. Considering how often I break things, this is good thing.
I believe in second chances. Sometimes, thirds and fourths, because I have a big, stupid heart. And I basically want to hug the world. This is not always possible or wise, and I know (now) how to hold back when necessary. I am not always good at it, but I’ve learned how to do it.
This year, I’ve written things I never thought I could. I’ve created people out of nothing and watched as they made their lives in my head. In another context, that would be crazy. Writing is, after all, a beautiful kind of madness – and even with a heap of short stories that I’m not *quite* sure what to do with, I’m proud of them. I’ve learned from them. One of them even became a manuscript. I know that when I query it, I will hold my breath. I will send it out and see what it is made of. I will drink copious amounts of coffee, make tipsy cherry fudge (recipe courtesy of Kat Howard), and I will try.
That is the best you can do: try. Sometimes, it is all you can do. Don’t let anyone stop you from trying, or loving, or laughing, or falling, or making a fool out of yourself. Fools are wiser than you think, because they dance out into the open – while others are afraid.
For this coming year, I wish you magick. With a k, because that is the bloody right spelling. I wish you laughter, love, art, joy, and as many mistakes as you can handle. I wish you relentless love, wild moments, and kisses that make your knees quake. I wish you sweet smiles, kind words, and enough inspiration to make you nearly burst.
For years I tried to write your name
and not the lie I always saw in it.
You were so lonely
the first time I let my fingers brush your cheek –
there was no dignity in it,
just foolish necessity. I hid my shame
behind my smile, buried it there
like a dead albatross. Sometimes,
I think I hear it calling, still.
I’m sure, by now, you’ve stopped thinking of me.
That can’t be you that just drove by.
That can’t be you standing in line at the supermarket.
That can’t be you –
can it? I wish to hell I could stop expecting
to see you; I wish to hell
my heart would stop conjuring your ghost.
For years I spoke your name
in secret, huddled in the dark of desire,
not ready to let the truth out,
not ready to expose myself,
no – not ready to share.
Funny, that. I was always so good at sharing.
Somehow, I know, I have made an enemy of time.
Time, it’s said, is the best executioner.
Time kills all things: people, memories, feelings.
Mine still pulse underneath my skin,
writhing reminders every time I draw breath.
I suspect this will be the thing that kills me:
loving too much, loving too well,
loving unwisely beyond all sense, tripping
down the edge of madness. Yes, I’ve
tasted madness too, a silhouette
of temptation sliding into being –
I know of kisses in corners
and parking lots, moments snatched
and held close (too close). I know the feeling
of goodbye and don’t go. I know
how your name tasted on my lips,
but I don’t know what it feels like
under my fingers.
I refuse to write your name.
I’d written it so often, so casually,
like a trusted habit; the letters hid your heart too well –
I can’t remember:
which of us is lonely now?
Max says Merry Christmas, too! (Never mind that the photo’s from LAST year when he was still a puppy. I can’t get him to stay still long enough for me to get a good shot of him in the Santa Hat, this year!)
I hope that everybody has a wonderful and magical holiday — may you laugh much and love well. *raises coffee mug* Cheers!
PS. Here’s one of Max from last month, with a hat photoshopping on his head.
(Note: This was part of mythological series I wrote.)
You are most welcome here,
I assure you. I have been expecting you.
Please, come in – sit down. Never mind
if it rocks a little. It won’t tip over.
At least it hasn’t yet.
Tea? Good, good. I’m glad you’ll have a cup.
What’s that? My eyes?
Oh, yes. They are a bit strange.
It’s a family trait, I’m afraid.
I do beg your pardon, but
what a lovely coin that is –
might I see it? Is this gold?
It feels as if it is.
How did you come by it?
Ah, you don’t remember.
Keep it? Why, I couldn’t.
Well, if you insist.
I do hate to rush you,
but it’s time you were on your way.
Oh, you’re confused. I see.
We’ve taken a small journey
across the river Styx.
I so enjoyed our visit. I’d say
that I’m looking forward
to seeing you again,
but that’d be a lie, I’m afraid.
It’s the time of year when my world sparks with cold – and walking the dog feels like a trip through the Wardrobe into Narnia, without the awesomeness of Mr. Tumnis. Or any Turkish Delight. I live in a place where winter is WINTER, and I’m one who tolerates the cold very well. Layers are my friend. This is my home, so I’ll gladly wear three sweaters, purple striped gloves, and my very pink Strawberry Shortcake hat. Because home isn’t just where you happen to live. It’s the place that feels like love. So what if it also includes icicles?
But this isn’t about the cold. It’s about Christmas. This time of year always makes me contemplative. I suppose it does for a lot of people. I’m lucky, because I have a great family and wonderful friends. Some near and some far, but all awesome.
There are so many things I’m grateful for this year. Having a cookie baking marathon with my BFF, where everything went wrong (burnt cookies, burnt caramel, and cookies that did not hold their shape), but it was still fun. And we can laugh at ourselves.
Trying to find a Christmas tree with the root ball, so that it can be planted, was an adventure. The tree farm that we went to almost my entire life is closed, now. I must’ve called fifty different places to ask if they sold live trees. The first man I spoke to was so drunk that I nearly didn’t believe it. He was also out of trees. (Out of trees? You’re a tree farm. I don’t think the Ents would approve.) After a lot of searching, one has been acquired. It is perfect, and it smells like Christmas and childhood.
For the first time ever, I’m cooking Christmas Eve dinner this year. It is an Italian tradition of 7 fish. I forget the significance, even though I ask after it every year. I’m a bit afraid that I’ll overcook the scallops or somehow wreck the seafood sauce, but I am also excited. I want to know how to make the things my mom makes. Thanksgiving, I’ve got down. This is the next challenge. I choose to see it as such. In the immortal words of Barney Stinston – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. *suits up*
I spent a few days locating important pieces of Christmas: my Santa Hat, a copy of Dominick the Donkey, and the stockings for my animals. (Side-note: I ordered some toys for my cats and dog for Christmas. There was a problem with the order, and I had to ask the lady if the items would be here for Christmas…because I bought presents for my pets. I can only assume by her silence and slowness to answer that she thought I was this side shy of crazy.)
I love the holidays and the silly traditions I have (watching Bridget Jones and Love Actually while wrapping presents). I hope you have silly traditions, too, and that the holiday is full of magic, laughter, and lots of joy. You can’t put a price on that, and you can’t wrap it. The good thing is that stuff like that doesn’t need a bow.
Nota bene: For anyone who hasn’t heard Dominick the Donkey, here:
(Note: this was inspired by something my friend Blake brought to my attention this morning. You can read about it here.)
Words have power. Like all things of power, they can be used to ill or good, to hurt or help, to wound or heal. Words can be either prayers or curses – and there’s nothing neutral about them. Words have meaning suffused into them, inherently and contextually. So, it is wise to be mindful of those we choose.
This falls to me and you, as people. This falls to you, too, as a parent, teacher, librarian, or simply someone who is present. As a child, or even a teenager, it is often difficult to find the right words – but it is most important not to choose the wrong ones. The ones that inflict pain. The ones that point out shortcomings. That ones that harm. The ones that heap misery onto someone who, maybe, can’t handle it.
As a kid, I was teased fairly regularly. In middle school, I was a total dork. I didn’t wear the “right” clothing (which, at the time, included overalls. I think I made the wise choice there.). I didn’t steal wine coolers, have a boyfriend in prison, or smoke. But I wasn’t teased for that.
No, I was teased because my family had horses and my last name happened to be Trotta. Horses TROT, right? Yeah, I didn’t think it was that clever either, and I certainly couldn’t do anything to change it. I remember being neighed at daily. (Now, it reminds me of a scene from Practical Magic, which I will get a link to, later) As stupid as it was, it hurt. It bothered me. It made me feel bad about myself. It made going through the normal adolescent bullshit all the more difficult.
I didn’t wear makeup. I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair. I was not slim. By eighth grade, I’d developed dandruff (thanks, Crazy Teenage Hormone imbalance!) and I had kids in my class calling me Selsun Blue and Head and Shoulders. Beyond the sparse, “shut up,” I didn’t say anything. I just took it. I endured it. I dealt with it every day. It sounds almost silly, writing it out. Because I wasn’t physically harmed, but not all harm is physical. It’s bullying. It’s emotional abuse. Now, we have a term for it. I’m not sure that we did, then.
Thinking about those things, now, they don’t hurt as much. But I’m still surprised to find a vague sense of shame accompanying those memories. Maybe that’s just the ghost of pain. I don’t know. (The strange thing of it was that while I rarely stood up for myself, I almost always stood up for other people. Sometimes, it was disastrous; sometimes, I felt like I did some good.)
There were a lot of days where I came home from school and cried. There were a lot of days where I was simply, abjectly miserable. I felt bad about myself. I felt bad about things that I couldn’t control. I felt like someone had stamped a giant L for LOSER on my forehead. It sucked.
You know what strikes me, now? The fact that the teachers often did nothing. Oh, they heard. It was impossible not to, but they stood by and watched people pick on me. And on others. Sure, the kids were just as likely to make fun of our overweight history teacher, but he had one advantage that I didn’t: he was in a position of authority. Not having the adult in the room say a word? Well, it made what those kids did, and said, okay. It was condoning through silence. And, thinking about it today, it shouldn’t have happened.
It all seems silly now, but at the time, it sucked. (Side-note: that is when I started to write poetry. It was emo, before emo existed. Yeah, I was that cool. Also, I may have overused the word ‘alas’ a lot. But at least I know what it meant and how to use it. Shakespeare for all!) And I carried that with me, all throughout middle school. The feelings persisted even through high school, even though the comments stopped.
The truth was, I was a late bloomer. But I was also lucky. I was lucky that I had a family who supported me, who routinely asked how my day was, and who told me it would all be okay. I had good friends outside of school (hi, Mandy, if you’re reading this) who made me feel better and not alone. I had somewhere to run to, places to seek comfort, and other sources of happiness.
I turned out okay. I got through it. I didn’t let it ruin me like it could’ve. I was lucky, because I never got desperate enough to take my own life.
But it happens. It happened then. It happens now. And I hate it. I hate it because it doesn’t have to happen. It’s not a disease you can’t avoid. It’s not stepping out into the street and getting hit by a bus. It’s not a car accident. It’s not a stroke.
It’s someone making a poor choice. It’s someone failing to be kind. It’s someone acting like a monster. It’s someone picking on someone weaker.
It can be stopped. It can be avoided. It gets better.
All it takes is one person. One person to step up and say no. One person to say enough. One person to make the right choice, instead of the wrong one.
It starts with one.