Archive for October, 2012

all my love loosened

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I was born screaming, red-faced,
earlier than three turns
of someone else’s moon:
I should’ve died, but I didn’t.
I should’ve been failed of life,
but instead I was a fairy
for my very first Halloween,
but you have not seen them.

They sent me home early
for good behavior,
and there are pictures of me
in a stocking, my first Christmas,
wearing doll clothes
because nothing else would fit
(I was too small),
but you have not seen them.

I can count the number of times
I should’ve died, tick them off
my fingers like stories
of someone else’s progress,
but they belong to me
as the star belongs to the sky
(what is one without the other?),
but you have not seen them.

Today, I write this song for you,
all my secrets let out,
all my love loosened at the seams –
pluck a string
and you will find it, tethered
to my mad, mad heart
(what is love without madness?
what is madness without love?),
but you have not seen it.

Tonight, I am made of
a hunger so acute
that it pulls my past from my bones;
memories flying out of my fingers,
my passions cast from a few sparse moments,
shirking the idea of a harmony
I know I’ll never have; all I have
are questions, a love that rises
without permission,
but you have not asked for it.

Still, I fear
it has made me as useless
as a half-hearted kiss,
as the idea of burying the wound,
as a watercolor left out in the rain.
But I do not wash off.
I do not keep quiet.
I do not run.
I was born in a battle.
I was blessed by a curious call.
I am the sum of an open heart.
I am well-forged.
I know when war
opens its wide mouth –
mine will be wider,
my scream impossible to forget.

Categories: Poetry

chaos has a wandering hand

October 28, 2012 4 comments

I am sitting in my best friend’s kitchen, clinging to a post-party cup of coffee. I am the only one awake. Yesterday reminded me of how much I love being around people and how much I love Halloween. I would probably attend a costume party every month, if such things existed in the adult world. We all need more whimsy, more silliness, more smiles, and more reasons to live — not just get by.

Right now, I find myself more reflective than usual. I’m beginning to think there’s something about my BFF’s kitchen floor that makes me introspective. The last time I stayed here, my mind was full of unexpected thoughts. Perhaps it is the quiet. Perhaps it is simply my restless mind. Perhaps it is my muddled heart.

Or maybe it’s this coming storm that I’ve been hearing so much about. I can’t help but feel like it’s the perfect metaphor for so many things, right now.

It is a force of nature. There is nothing we can do about it. All we can do is close our eyes and hope for the best. Destruction, unfortunately, is inevitable. Chaos has a wandering hand. And our lives may look a little different, when the rain stops, when the winds calm, when the debris is cleared.

Today, I feel like counting all the hours in it. I can feel the minutes tick by in my bones, a reminder of everything I want and everything I cannot control. We are so often just people in the middle of a storm, unable to see beyond the rain. Sometimes, we forget the beauty in it, the wonder of change. The possibilities on the wind. Sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to run from the things we can’t, or shouldn’t, that we lose something: potential, a chance, a piece of ourselves. That last one pains me the most, especially if I watch it happen to someone else, but I am powerless to stop it — just like I’m powerless in the face of this storm.

But there is also the moment when we find that we are the storm. That we are wrecking and rending and derailing so many things, perhaps without thinking, without proper consideration. Just blindly doing, without a pause given, without contemplating the outcome or consequence. Destruction without an endgame, without redemption, without a promise or a purpose. All chaos has its place, whether or not its easy to look at. All changes have a meaning. Sometimes, we lose ourselves to love, forgetting reason. Sometimes, we wear our reason like armor, not noticing that it’s rusted through, or that we cannot move, or that we do not really understand what we are fighting or who we are fighting for. That is a windmill moment, when the imagined monster is ourselves.

With all terrible storms, with all impending or happened changed, there is a sense of loss. It can rip through a heart fine as a razor, without hesitation or mercy. It is then that whole lives change, where people discover themselves. It is then that we either bury or unearth our courage. Only a madman would stand in the middle of a hurricane. Only a madwoman would sing her songs into that wind.

The most painful moments in our lives are often the choices we make. They are often the love we dare. No storm is a safe, tame thing. But as the bright leaves fall from the tress this morning, I remember that all things must change in order to grow. Just because the world looks different doesn’t mean things won’t be okay.

Today, I count the hours. I know each one by heart. I always remember, even when I cannot say a word.

Some storms are of our choosing. Others are not. You can try to brace for both kinds, but at some point, there is nothing to be done. There is simply waiting for the storm to pass.

Categories: Random Musings

Drive more — wrinkle less! Some Words on Honda’s New Lady Car

October 26, 2012 4 comments

First, they came for the pens – and I didn’t say a word. Okay, that’s a lie, because those BIC pens for girls? Total bullcrap. Just ask Ellen DeGeneres, as she kicks ass. Then they tried to put me in a BINDER, and I did not say a word. Actually, that’s not true either. Because nobody puts Baby in a Binder.

And now, there’s a GIRL CAR. And, my dear gentle uteruses, it comes in PINK. So, gather your ovaries and get yourself (accompanied, of course, by your husband or other suitable adult male chaperon.) to your nearest Honda dealership. Because, come on: what woman doesn’t want a PINK CAR?

Honda folks? This is the WORST marketing campaign since the Teleflora flowers ad, which insulted women, degraded relationships, and suggested that flowers are a kind of sexual commerce — during the Superbowl. But, ladies, who could resist the shiny pink color and the lovely pink stitching? It is like lady catnip, isn’t it? I think I’m swooning. Let’s just take a gander at all the features in this Barbie doll-esque pink miracle, shall we?

No, we only need to discuss two. It has a windshield MADE OF MAGIC. Or as close to magic as one can get, because it’s “designed to block skin-wrinkling ultraviolet rays.” But it gets BETTER, my darling menstruating divas. It also has a “ ‘Plasmacluster’ air conditioning system that Honda claims can improve a driver’s skin quality.”

My sweet mindless brethren, isn’t this divine? Drive more — wrinkle less! Forget silly things like road safety and traction control. Your skin will look FABULOUS. Isn’t that what’s always been missing from your car? Praise Buddy Christ! Let me go fix Don Draper a cocktail, okay?

…hold on a second, ok? *takes off pearls* *steps OUT of the 1950s* *tucks away birth control* WHAT THE EVER LOVING HELL? I do not need a pretty pink car, with magic air conditioning and a HEART in the pink SHE’S on its side. While I admire her greatly, my name isn’t actually JEM – for whom this car would be appropriate, because she is a cartoon.

Here’s the problem, people: while our sex is biologically determined, our gender is performative. A boy can like PINK, just as well as a girl. Our sex doesn’t predispose us to like certain things; society might. Society encourages certain behaviors and tastes – which is where open-minded folks usually step in and say, “Hey, wait a minute – my daughter can certainly play with GI Joe and Barbie.” Or “my son’s favorite color is purple.” Because, hey, everyone is entitled to like what he/she likes – to develop his/her own tastes. Creating products that are supposedly gender-specific is a losing game. Our gender – hell, our sexual orientation – does not determine our tastes, just like my hormones don’t interfere with my election preferences.

We are people. Some of us have a uterus. Some of us have a penis. There are a few who have both. But at the end of the day, we’re still people. We put our pants on one leg at a time (when we wear pants). We drink our coffee or our tea. We like sports. We like ballet. We like whatever we like. This is not determined by our sex.

And I’m fairly certain this ensured that I will never, ever buy a Honda. Because my uterus is offending. Oh, wait – no, I am offended.

the mad ones

October 24, 2012 3 comments


Sometimes, there are situations where we cannot do anything. Moments where we just have to sit on our hands, wait, and hope for the best. As something of a doer, with shades of control freak, I hate those situations. Those moments. Because even when we do everything, or everything we can, certain things are not up to us.

I was sitting in Starbucks, attempting to quell my thoughts with coffee. That worked about as well as giving candy to a toddler. Basically, I’ve amplified my already overactive, overthinking brain. Not wise. But I am not always a paragon of smarts. (Those of you who deal with me on a daily basis will guffaw at that statement. I know. I KNOW.)

Few things are more frustrating than wanting to fix something, but realizing that it’s out of your hands. You’re trying. You’re doing your best. You’re working on things. But ultimately, you have to wait. Ultimately, other people are making the final decision. This goes for work, pursuing writing, and hell – all relationships.

You should do everything you can. Not leave anything to chance. But in the end, we are not always the deciding factor. We are not always where the buck stops. We are not always in control. Today, I found myself feeling like my sixteen year old self, wishing that someone could just fix something and make it better. I literally had that thought: I just want someone to FIX it.

And, hi, I’m THIRTY. So, not sixteen. And I’m glad that I’m not sixteen, because I was a scared, unconfident (if that’s not a word, it SHOULD be) person at that age. Being scared meant running. Being scared meant not speaking up. Being scared meant letting other people dictate my life.

Now? Being scared means standing my ground. It means knowing what I want, despite the inherent difficulties. Being scared means being brave – sometimes, it means being brave enough for someone else. It means that there is something worth fighting for. Our greatest weakness can be our greatest strength, just like an inferiority complex can hold a person back OR propel them to move forward and be better. Prove everybody wrong.

It is always wise, though, when pursuing what you want, to have faith. To believe. It’s such a simple, fragile thing. It’s so important, though. We never get anywhere, unless we believe. Even if it SEEMS crazy or impossible. Perhaps especially then.

Do you best. Leave the rest. T’will all come right, some day or night. (Yeah, I just quoted from Black Beauty. I think that’s where the quote is from. Anyone? Bueller?) Do your best. Put your cards on the table. Chase something. Love full and well. Laugh at yourself. And, when necessary, have faith.

 “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” — Kerouac

Stay Classy, America: You’re Acting like a Five Year Old

October 23, 2012 5 comments

So, full confession: I hate politics. I wish there was an app that removed all the political ads from my television. I wish that the debates were actually moderated, by folks who actually…moderate? I wish that those participating in the debates had enough courtesy not to trounce all over said moderators. I also really wish they’d let Jon Stewart moderate one.

The truth is that I don’t care you who vote for. That isn’t my business. I watched two of the three debates, and yes, one of them was the Binders Full of Women – and the other was the Bayonets and Horses debate. (“The 80s called it wants its foreign policy back.” I’ll admit it: I chuckled. But I’d also like to say: my ten year old self called, and she’d like her pithy sense of humor back.) Apparently, no one watched the first debate, including the President.

Last night, Ann Coulter said some pretty stupid shit. I know this, because Twitter told me so. The folks are in a tizzy and rightly so. Regardless of political affiliations, the stuff in uncool. But this is, unfortunately, par for the Coulter crazy course. It’s her schtick. It’s what she does to get attention. And you know what? It’s working, as long as we keep talking about it. So, I’m not talking about it anymore.

You know what I’m going to talk about? The anti-The Other Guy hate. Coulter says something tremendously stupid, and people respond, “Punch the cunt in the neck! Or kill her!” And a part of my happy little soul shrivels up in horror. First of all, it’s never ok to call a woman a cunt. Second of all, even in a joking manner, that shit’s not funny. It makes you look like an asshat for a whole host of reasons, none of which you’re going to like. If you’re a man and you say that, it opens up a can of gender troubles that you probably don’t want to get into. Talking like that also undermines whatever statement you’re trying to make. Because sometimes, all people can hear is the hate seething out of your words – which, hey, way to stoop down a few levels.

I’ll be fair and say that a remarkable number of people in the Republican party have said appallingly insane things this election season. The fact that we’ve actually said the term ‘legitimate rape’ makes me angrier than I can even convey. However, when you start attacking people based on party affiliation (terms like repug, for example) – you lose credibility. You lose whatever higher ground you might’ve had. Because you’re acting like a five year old, throwing sand and pulling hair on the playground. Except a five year old is expected to do those things because THEY’RE FIVE.

There’s something to be said for conducting yourself with a bit of grace and dignity. There’s something to be said for taking the high road. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good joke, dirty or otherwise. In fact, I spent most of the debate last night snarking my ever-loving snark out. And it filled me with joy. Because politics, my friends, is perfect comedic fodder. Yes, Romney called the United States the “hope of the earth.” And yes, I want to know where the One Ring is – and if we’re going to Mordor soon. Poor, poor Frodo. And sure, I’ve only now heard about this newfangled thing called a SUBMARINE – and GUYS! It goes under WATER. How cool is THAT?

But you know what you are, when you act like an idiot and say you want to punch someone in the neck? Congratulations, you’re right on the level with Romney’s SON, who supposedly wanted to punch the President. So, stay classy, America. Until next time, I’ll be sitting in the back, making references to the Breakfast Club, as soon as I decipher what the frakkin’ hell a DEBT BURDEN is. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to figure out where the FUN debts are.

Once Upon a Time: the courage to be vulnerable

October 22, 2012 2 comments


Relationships are hard. Inevitably, everyone has an opinion about them, even when they’re not one of the two people in the relationship. Perhaps especially then, since it’s so easy and so clear cut to weigh and measure something from the outside. The sad truth is that there are those who will always judge another for who he/she loves, for who he/she has given his/her heart to. The saddest thing of all is when it is a family member, or someone whose opinion is held in high esteem.

Truly being in a relationship is fraught with emotional peril. For it to work, you have to be honest. You have to be vulnerable. You have to bear the ugly parts of yourself, not run away from them. Moreover, you have to fight for your relationship, for that other person. If you cannot fight for that other person, why would that other person fight for you? Like honesty, the hard work necessary is a two way street. When only one partner is doing the heavy lifting, something is rotten in Denmark.

Last night’s episode of Once Upon a Time (The Crocodile) was full of equal parts hardship and hope, love and loss, lesson and the object of that lesson. In Fairytale Land, we find a cowardly Rumplestiltskin, whose wife is longing for adventure. She resents him for being a coward (the quickest way to kill a relationship, btw, is to breed resentment). Supposedly, Milah is kidnapped by Killian Jones, who will later become Captain Hook (expertly portrayed by the dashing Colin O’Donoghue; this guy is wonderfully cheeky, having named his fans Hookers. A fact that nearly caused me to spit wine.). The cowardly Rumple goes to get her back, but is unable to fight for her, because of his debilitating fear. Hook, well-clad in leather and Johnny Depp’s leftover eyeliner, proclaims, “A man unwilling to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets.” And, you know, that’s true. Just as we accept the love we think we deserve (Perks of Being a Wallflower shout out), we are also bound those we choose to risk for – people, opportunities etc. We are what we dare. And if we do not dare, no one else loses but us.

Of course, we later learn that Hook and Rumplestiltskin encounter each other again, but Rumplestiltskin is the Dark One, brimming with power. It turns out his wife isn’t dead, as he thought; she ran away with the Captain, because she fell in love with him. This breaks his heart, not only for what that meant for him, but for how she abandoned their son. He exacts revenge by almost poetically ripping out Milah’s heart, perhaps as a metaphor for the emotional toll she took on him. Hook, who is not a clear cut bad guy, is obviously wrecked by this, which feeds into the idea that evil isn’t born – it’s made. As we find at the end of the episode, Hook and Cora are plotting to take a trip to Storybrooke.

What I loved most about this episode is the evolution of the Belle/Rumple relationship. In the beginning, Belle has a nightmare that exemplifies her fears. In it, he gives her a necklace (pretty, yes – but ornamental), gets in a fight with Leroy, and turns back into the Dark One. Once she wakes up, she spies him in the basement practicing magic, and his refusal to answer her questions makes her leave his home. Wisely, she tells him, “You don’t need power, Rumple. You need courage – to let me in.” That is what anyone in relationship needs: courage to honest. Courage to be vulnerable.

Rumplestiltskin, upon finding her gone, goes to David for help. While they are not friends, Rumple points out that he’s in a unique position to understand what he’s going through. This emotional appeal was a brave thing, because the Rumple we know would never ask anyone for him. David agrees, and they begin looking around Storybrooke for Belle.

Belle, of course, has the unfortunate experience of being kidnapped by her own father, who is absolutely horrified that she has fallen in love with the Dark One. This conversation is completely resonating for anyone who has ever loved someone that their parents disapproved of.

Belle: He wasn’t holding me captive. I choose to be with him.

Moe (Belle’s Dad): Are you saying you fell in love with him?

Belle: But I fear it may be over now.

Moe: It must be. Promise me you no longer love him. That you will no longer see him.

Belle: I’m not a child.”

Moe: You don’t understand what that man will do to you, what he’s already done.

Belle: No, you don’t understand. It’s my life.

Moe: Then I don’t have a choice. I’m sorry.

With that, Moe takes the overprotective parent angle to new, horrifying (somewhat PSYCHOTIC) heights: he has someone else take her to the mines, in order to forcible send her across the town boundary – which would erase her memory, thus her love. Stop and think about that for a second. I’m sure that in each parent’s life, there are things he/she would take away from his/her child. Most likely, it would be pain or a bad memory. But Moe, being dangerously ignorant and self-righteous, would rather his daughter lose who she is – than to be in love with someone he disapproves of. The implications there are truly revolting. It is one thing to disagree with someone; it is another to insist you know better and attempt to stamp out that person’s agency.

Meanwhile, David and Rumplestiltskin are asking around, and the townsfolk are not entirely helpful. It isn’t like anyone has Mr. Gold over for tea. And yet, there is this sweetly touching moment between these two, where Rumple is (again) raw and vulnerable – and very, almost sweetly human.

Rumple: Can I ask you a question – about you and Mary Margaret. How…how does that work?

David: Are you asking dating advice?

Rumple: Of course not, no.

David: Honesty. That’s how we did it. Hard work and being honest with one another.

Rumple: I don’t lie.

David: There’s a difference between literal truth and honesty of the heart. Nothing taught me that more than this curse.

This brilliantly illustrates how much Rumple doesn’t know about relationships – and draws a nice parallel between Cursed David and Rumplestiltskin. That version of David didn’t know how to be perfectly honest, and that’s what mucked things between him and Mary Margaret; he couldn’t be the brave version of Charming. Likewise, Rumplestiltskin is in foreign waters, because he hasn’t exactly had the best track record with relationships. His first wife pretended to be kidnapped, ran off with someone else, and constantly berated him. He was used to being the Monster (the Beast, the Crocodile), until he met Belle. Belle, it is fair to say, is his catalyst for change. Love, after all, is the most powerful magic.

David, Moe, Ruby, and Rumplestiltskin arrive in the mines in time to rescue Belle; Rumple makes his biggest display of magic yet, which impresses Ruby. He is relieved to find that they are not too late, that Belle hasn’t forgotten him. The beginning of this exchange has shades of their conversation in last season’s finale – “I do, Rumplestiltskin. I remember.”

Belle isn’t a weak character. She doesn’t immediately forgive the man she loves, simply because he rescues her. Instead, she challenges him, “Thank you for what you just did, but that doesn’t change that you’re too cowardly to be honest with me.” Belle isn’t afraid of the dark parts in him; what she fears is that he cannot show them to her.

Of course, somehow Crazy Moe thinks that he and his daughter will now live happily ever after – because nothing says Daughter, I love you! like trying to take who she is – but Belle is having absolutely none of that, declining to go with him, “After what you just tried to do to me? You’re not better, father. You don’t get to decide what I do or how I feel. If either of you cared about me, you would’ve listened. I don’t want to see either of you again, ever.” Beautifully, she leaves, with everyone else just gaping at her. I cheered a bit, while feeling horribly bad for Rumplestiltskin. Let’s face it: if my ideal type was personified as a character, it’d be him. And I’m not just saying that because I have a crush of Robert Carlyle. That doesn’t hurt of course.

The story does not end there. In her nightmare, Belle was given a very opulent necklace by Rumplestiltskin, something pretty – but impersonal. It was not a gift that says I know you; it was a gift that says I am buying you. Or, even, you are just another possession, like this necklace. However, in reality, someone leaves Belle a key to the library. It is, as we learn, from Rumplestiltskin. The parallel between these two gifts is remarkable. While the necklace conveyed an emotional disconnect, the key does the exact opposite: it shows that he sees her and appreciates what she holds dear. In other words, he gets her.

He is waiting for her in the library. And it is there that he is the bravest we’ve ever seen him, without a whisper magic or power. All he is armed with is his naked vulnerability, his love, and total honesty. He has, we see, taken David’s advice. The motive is not to win her back, but to be a worthy person.

Rumplestiltskin: I came because, you’re right. About me. I am a coward. I have been my entire life. I tried to make up for it by collecting power, and the power became so important that I couldn’t let go. Not even when that meant losing the most important person in my life.

Belle: Your son.

Rumple: Baelfire is him name. After he left, I dedicated myself to finding him. I went down many, many paths – until I found a curse that could take me to the land where he escaped.

Belle: Here.

Rumple: Now I find myself in this little town, with only thing left to do. Wait for the curse to be broken, so that I could leave and find him.

Belle: But instead of looking for him, you brought magic.

Rumple: Because I’m still a coward. Magic has become a crunch that I can’t walk without. And even if I could, I now know I can never leave this place.

Belle: Because anyone who leaves, forgets the people they love. So, when you go to look for balefire, you won’t know him.

Rumple: Magic comes with a price. Belle, I have to break this new curse. That’s why I was using magic, the night you saw me in the basement. I have lost so much that I loved. I didn’t want to lose you again, without you knowing everything. [Here, he touches her face, with such a loving gesture. I am not ashamed to say that it melted my heart.] Goodbye, Belle.

What is love, if not forgiving? What is love if not a display of difficult honesty? Belle sees the pain of what he’s going through, what he’s gone through. She sees, through that conversation, his ache. The one he has carefully hidden from the world. The mad desire to find his son consumed him in Fairytale Land. In a horrible twist of fate, it might be his release of magic that rendered him unable to go in search of Bae. The question hanging in the air is: if he hadn’t release magic, would he be able to cross the town line without consequence?

Before he can leave the library, Belle stops him.

Gold: Have you ever had a hamburger?

Rumple: Yes, of course.

Belle: Well, I haven’t. But I hear that Grannies makes a great one. Maybe, maybe we could try it sometime.

Rumple: I would like that.

That is the beginning of forgiveness. It is a new, honest start. It is also the promise of a date. I think that it’s interesting that Belle knows exactly who she is, and what she wants, even though she’s been absent from the world for 28 years. She is experiencing so many things for the first time, and yet, she is secure in herself. She has an almost childlike delight in the things we (as everyday people) perhaps take for granted. The little pleasures, like iced tea and pancakes for breakfast. The delight of sharing a meal with someone, something that’s new. It is a simple thing, but so very important. When we begin to take those moments for granted, we begin to take each other for granted – we take life for granted. She takes nothing for granted. And I love that.

While Belle portrays our very best self when in love (brave, honest, strong, and willing to FIGHT – even if that means fighting the other person), Rumplestiltskin reminds us that we all have the potential to be cowardly – to run away and wall ourselves off. However, he also reminds us that we are more than who we have been. We are more than our past. We have the ability to change, to be braver and more honest. The most important thing we can do in a relationship is to be honest, to share the messy parts of ourselves, trusting the other person more than our fear. To offer up the darkest parts of ourselves to the person that we love, without ulterior motive. Because no one is truly a coward in love. Love itself makes us braver, stronger, and truer. Flaws and mistakes are not who we are; they are just things that we have done.

Now, a few small points, just for fun. Rumplestiltskin goes a bit Princess Bride on occasion, which I adore. He says truly and true as twooly and twu, not unlike the bishop in the marriage scene between Buttercup and Humperdink. Additionally, Captain Hook uttered a Buffy shout out, when he instructed the cowardly Rumplestiltskin on the fine arts of duelling, “The pointy end goes in the other guy.” Between the Game of Thorns flower shop, and that, I did a geeky dance of happy.

this is no small love

October 19, 2012 2 comments


Last night, I was thinking about choices. Sometimes, we are presented with an opportunity, a possibility all perfect and shiny. Enticing, even if only for its existence. The choice can be big or small (make a phone call or do not; love or do not); it is always something emotional. The proverbial question: do you dare to eat a peach? (TS Eliot ftw.)

The odd thing about me is that I am often loyal to a fault, to an extreme. In such instances, my choices are not so much about what’s being offered. They are about how that offer makes me feel. The idea may be enticing, but it is just that: an idea. If I am already loyal to something or someone, nothing will ever sway that. If I say yes, if I give my heart, if I commit – that’s it. I am all in, no matter what. I do not give up. I do not walk away. I am not swayed by shiny, shiny things.

In all things, I suppose, I am loyal to myself. I wonder if enough people are, though. Last night, I watched Scandal on ABC, and saw Fitz and Olivia (the president and a political fixer – who is also his ex-girlfriend – respectively) deny feelings and spare with each other. I watched two people in love, held apart, be inferior versions of themselves because of that missing hole, that absence. Because, let’s face it: love, being in love and being loved, is a transformative experience. Good love, honest love, isn’t always pretty. It can be messy, and it SHOULD be. But it also makes us a better version of ourselves. It doesn’t change us. It enhances who we are. It lifts us up. It encourages. It supports.

Not only is Fitz that president, but he’s married with a pregnant wife (which, to sum up: marriage isn’t happy. His wife has political aspirations and the pregnancy was a strategic move on her part. Mellie is brilliant, heart-stricken one moment and freezing cold the next. Her fury is a thing to be reckoned with. Mad love for Bellamy Young.) Olivia stopped taking his calls, and Fitz is a shadow of himself, a man with a painted on smile. Pretending so hard, because he cannot see a way out of his situation. Presidents do not get divorced. Mellie has his balls over a very hot flame. So, he is lying to himself. He is playing the part of the happy husband, all the while a drink is in his hand. All the while, there is something missing from him, because Olivia is keeping her distance. He is, as his Chief of Staff (Cyrus) points out, a ticking time bomb. That speech, I think, is so relatable for anyone who has had to pretend, who has had to shove feelings aside just to get by, to get through a moment or a night. Anyone who is without.

You’re ticking, sir. You’re ticking. You know how I know you’re ticking? Up until you saw this picture, you’ve been happy, lately you’ve been happy, don’t get me wrong – I’ve enjoyed it. Not because of the happiness, because it’s been weird, like seeing a grandma in a bikini or a democrat with a bible. You’re happy. But we both know that happy people are rarely actually happy, unless they’re morons. You are a brilliant man, a Rhode scholar and a PhD, which means you’re acting happy, because she won’t take your calls. And you won’t admit that it bothers you, and god knows what else. Because on with the Shakespearean drama that is the women in your life, you’re ticking sir. You’re a bomb stuffed in a teddy bear waiting to explode. Tick, tick, tick, tick. How do I diffuse the bomb, sir?

Everyone, at some point, has been just that: an emotionally wrecked, starved time bomb. Going without, trying to keep on, all the while being less. It is a wretched way to exist; it sure as hell isn’t living. And for her part, Olivia Pope is the same. In fact, she since she’s stopping talking the president’s call – arguably, the love of her life, whose affections and love is so fierce it is almost physically visible – she has started screwing up at work. She is distracted. She is, dare I say, bereft. She is visibly keeping it together, while she is half out of her mind with wanting/needing. Olivia is also ticking.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

A series of events happens, and Fitz and Olivia meet up in the woods. He is angry. He changes her shoes, which is an ordinary gesture, and they are close to each other. He is filled with rage, and grief, and want, and fear – a thousand emotions, laced up. There is nothing gentle about his anger or his pain. Olivia, here, is soft. Her eyes are all pain and love. There is nothing guarded about the way they are looking at each other.

It is here that Fitz explodes. His anger, his passion bubbles out of his like a loosened steam value. They argue, and she accuses him of being jealous – that their fight isn’t about the case she is working on, that it’s about them and their relationship. They yell at each other. His jealousy is brilliant green and screaming. He brings up her ex-boyfriend, a senator, which means he has kept an eye on her personal life. Then Fitz throws a barb that is meant to wound. And it hurts her so profoundly that she can’t actually speak. In this moment, they are just two people in a shitty situation, hurt and needing each other. For a moment, they stare at each other, faces full of ignited feelings.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Fitz explodes. He strides across the clearing and kisses Olivia. This is not a tiny kiss. This is not a gentle kiss. This is passion and pressure, fingers and bodies. This is a kiss you remember, down to your last nerve ending. This is the moment that they are both loyal to their own hearts, instead of what they are supposed to do. This is the moment where are not the president and the political fixer, but two people very much in love kept apart by circumstance. Two people with impossible feelings, beautifully and tragically undone by each other.

Olivia, more rational than I can even fathom, pushes him away. “I don’t show up places because you want me. I am not yours.”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Olivia did the opposite of explode: she withheld. Look at where she is, heart bleeding in her hands. The situation she is in, the position in which she finds herself? It’s torture. It’s being in someone’s life, being important in it, but being secret. (An open secret, because it seems like a lot of people wonder about their relationship. Hell, Mellie knows, and she even encouraged it for a while, when it suited what she wanted. Charming, yes?)

Fitz and Olivia belong to each other, without actually belonging to each other. Apart, they are less. Apart, they are a sadder version of themselves, pretending to get by. For very tangible reasons, they dance around and around each other, separating only to meet in the woods. Avoiding each other, only to break down and make a phone call. Love like that? It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t dissipate with distance. No, love like that turns you into a time bomb. Emotional C4, one detonation away from freedom or disaster. Maybe both. Because living in that kind of precarious wasteland of feelings? It’s not really living. As the tagline says, dirty little secrets always come out. But so does love. Try as you might to hold it in, it seeks an opening. It makes one, if necessary. Like Anne Sexton once wrote, “As it has been said: / Love and a cough / cannot be concealed. / Even a small cough. / Even a small love.” And this? This is no small love.

To deny our own hearts is a choice. I do not think it is the right one, even if that’s the way it looks on paper. Watching these two people, you cannot help but root for them, despite the circumstances, despite the obviously reasons why not. People in love are more than should and shouldn’t. People in love aren’t perfect, but they are always a truer version of themselves.

Me? I do not want shiny, perfect things. I want mess and honesty. I want everything, because that is what I offer, without even spelling it out. I want the things unspoken, the words unsaid. Relationships are more than the words we say or the questions we ask. Relationships are built on actions. Patience. Loyalty. The awkward conversations and ridiculous moments. Relationships are not meant to be built on facades or shifting foundations. Those things do not last.

Love sticks around. Desire doesn’t always. Desire is easy. When the two go hand-in-hand, that’s an entirely different story. One alone cannot sustain you. One tears down, while the other builds you up. As in all things, it is a matter of balance.

We are, all of us, in some way — time bombs. We are withholding things from ourselves. We are holding back. We are holding in. And, eventually, what we’ve swallowed must come out.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“And, at the end of the day, I think that love is more important than some mistake somebody made.” ~Scandal

grief is a wild thing: I am my mother’s daughter

October 16, 2012 13 comments

When you lose a parent, there are things that people say. Some are true. Some seem like they’ve been stolen off a Hallmark card. Some irritate more than they comfort, despite the good intentions. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself entirely surprised at my own reaction to things. Repeatedly, I’ve heard, “She’s not in pain anymore.” And yes, that’s true. I’m glad that my mom isn’t in pain. But, damn it all to hell, I miss her. Her not being in pain doesn’t take that feeling away. It doesn’t undercut it. It doesn’t even make a dent in it. But it’s something people say, isn’t it? Perhaps in an effort to say SOMETHING. Because, hell, it’s hard to be on either end of that conversation. I know that. There’s nothing worse than running into someone who hasn’t heard the news. (Except, maybe, that ONE guy who I know knows, but who said nothing, despite having a forty minute conversation. Asshat.) Because it hurts all over again, to have to tell a simple fact: my mom died. I hate even typing that.

While writing this, I’m thinking about the other things people say. At least ONE of these made me want to punch a wall. Here are a few:

  • This will get better with time.
  • I’m sorry for your loss.
  • You’ll feel better soon.
  • She’s in Heaven now.
  • It must be a relief.
  • God must’ve wanted an angel.

I’ve heard those things, or variations of them, a lot. It’s routine, I guess. But you know what no one talks about? The actual absence. The space that used to be occupied by a person, the shared moments, the understanding. The fact that there is a hole in the world, and you’re trying to deal with it, except you can’t. Not really. You’re carrying it with you. Everything else feels small in comparison.

No one warns you about the thoughts you will have. The things that will grab your heart and squeeze it when you least expect it. The other day, on my birthday, my mom’s absence was a palpable thing. Don’t get me wrong: it was a great birthday. But there was a moment where I sat down and thought, Mom would’ve understood. She would’ve taken one look at me and gotten it. Even today, as I’m sitting here with a heap of things in front of me, I want nothing more than her advice. I want nothing more than to just sit with her and tell her about this crazy meeting I had last week, all my insane plans and hopes, and the things that I just don’t know what to do with. She was always that person who SAW me, even when I didn’t want to be seen. Who would listen to my insanity without flinching. She didn’t always like things about me, but she loved me. Despite my tendency to be a spaz. (I am an expert spaz, despite my calm exterior. You know you’ve gotten past all my walls when you see Spaz Me. Very few people ever see my unpolished self.)

There are moments and days where I miss my mom in an unparalleled way. Today is one of those days. Because she was always there, and now she’s not. Because she was always wise, and I need wisdom. Because she saw me at my worst, but loved me anyway. That is all anyone ever wants. That is what I want.

The only thing anyone can do is take things one day at a time. One moment to another. One challenge to the next. With an absence like this, certain things need to be relearned. Life needs a new balance. And that’s only fair, because everything is different. Including me. I realized that, in an odd way, losing my mother has made me hold on to certain things too tightly. It has made me lean on other people differently. This is both good and bad. But regardless, it is what it is – and I am learning as best as I can. Sometimes, that makes me (figuratively) clumsy. It makes me do stupid things. It makes me wonder what would mom do? instead of thinking what do I want to do? Because absence, among other things, makes us foolish in a lot of ways. A permanent absence can make a person angry, frustrated, confused – you name it. Mostly, those emotions are another side of grief. And, I think, when other people’s lives get back to normal – that’s when things unravel the most. Because people get back to their lives, as they should. But your life isn’t normal anymore. You have to rediscover normal. That, my dears, isn’t easy. It is possible, of course – but not pretty. No one tells you that, either.

These are the things that no one tells you. But I’m telling you, right now. For me, these things are true. For someone else, it might be different. For everyone who is muddling through? I get it. These trenches are bloody and suffocating. But I believe that it gets better. I believe that there are brighter days, because I’ve seen them. They’re not all like this. Some are. And man, oh man – on those days? I feel you.

While her absence sucks beyond the telling of it, it does remind that of how lucky I was. Because I had that. I had that person in my life who saw the ugly side of me, along with the red lipstick, and she didn’t flee the other direction. (There were times she might’ve been better off.) That fact is reassuring, because it reminds me that those who love us don’t run. Those who love us strive to understand us, even if it’s an impossible task. And those who love us accept us, even when it’s hard. As people, none of us are perfect. We are all walking wounds, sometimes. I know that I am it, now. And it affects me more than I realized, until today. But we are not the sum of our losses. We are not what is absent. We are proof of what existed. And that proof, our memories and what have you, yields one important thing: hope.

And hell: I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me to be brave, to live without fear, to love without walls, and to believe to the very last breath. If nothing else, those old lessons can be relied on. Perhaps the old lessons are the best of all.

Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Vulnerability and the Things We Do for Love

October 15, 2012 4 comments

Letting someone in is a hard thing. Or at least, it can be. It requires trust and vulnerability. It is a leap of faith, and it can be scary. I remember when I was five years old, a friend of mine wanted to pick me up. It was a silly game that kids play. I, trusting her, said yes – and she then dropped me in the parking lot, leaving me with a skinned knee. After that, I didn’t trust her. But life is rarely so overt as physical pain and scars.

In the same vein, putting another person first can be pulse-racing terrifying. It is a selfless act, or it should be. In this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time, there is a dance of trust, faith, vengeance, and the tango that is love. Love, any kind of love, is a strange, transformative thing. To be blunt, it makes us insane. It makes us do absolutely crazy, illogical things.

Princess Aurora, for instance, is wracked with grief over the loss of her love, Prince Phillip. She’s got angry face and evil eyes. In an instance of pure stupid, she tries to take out Snow, who is still a badass, even without the practice. She gives Aurora a stern talking to, before Mulan has a slight fit that someone else is being condescending toward the princess. But if anyone understands losing love, it’s Snow; she lost Charming so many times, for so many different reasons. Prince Phillips’s soul is trapped inside the wraith’s medallion. So, he isn’t dead, so much as…inaccessible. That’s just MY two cents. It seems like there could be hope for a happy(ish) ending there, but what do I know? I grew up reading too many fairytales. BUT, speaking of the fairest of them all…

Snow, reaffirming the Love Makes Us Do the Stupid theme, confronted an OGRE – with only a bow and arrow. She took it down with one shot, not knowing if she could even aim well, anymore. Snow was protecting her daughter, somewhat recklessly — without hesitation. Emma, clearly, is stunned. She isn’t used to relying on others, which she now must, because we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Because Kansas does NOT have ogres.

David, back in Storybrooke, endeavors to keep Henry out of harm’s way, which is well-meaning, but ridiculous. Henry, as kids often are, is all courage without fear. Without compunction, he tricks Regina out of her office (playing on her very real emotions), steals her keys and goes off in search of something in her vault to help get Emma and Snow back.

Momentary pause, here, because I felt incredibly bad for Regina, because her joy was totally sweet, when she thought Henry wanted to see her. Then, to find out he LIED to her? That’s low and cold. I’m sure her heart did a slight Grinch reversal – and yet, she still had the hope and the wherewithal to call David and let him know what happened, putting Henry first and saving from the vipers that were about to snack upon his stubborn hide.

This show continually warns that all magic comes with a price. And yet, so do the ordinary things, the choices we make and the actions we take. Trusting someone else? It is risky. It makes us vulnerable. And when we love someone else to put our life in their hands (figuratively and literally), it says a lot. In a Fairytale Land flashback, we see Charming’s mother poisoned by an arrow, Snow cursed with bareness, and Charming’s mother sacrificing her life so that Snow can be healed. The lake Nostros, with its healing powers, has all but dried up – since Charming killed the siren that lived there, last season. Only a small thimble-sized bit of water is left, and in an effort of selfless, sneaky love – Charming’s mother tricks Snow into drinking it. All the while, the knowledge of this barren curse is kept from Charming. Which is odd, because you’d expect Snow to maybe want to commiserate with the man she loves. Also, that drop of water? What if it was rain water? I mean, how did they know that this small seashell contained the magic lake water? Because it could’ve just been a puddle. *ahem* Anywayyyy…

Additionally, in this episode, we meet Lancelot, who has already been disgraced, left the round table, but who is still an honorable knight with a heart of gold. But to me, his character kind of fell flat. He could’ve been ANY knight. There was nothing truly remarkable about the depiction, except that he had a recognizable name. I wish that Once would’ve done a bit more with him, because with a rich literary history such as that, it could’ve been awesome. Of course, none of that matters, because by the episode, we learn that Cora killed him and has been posing as Lancelot ever since. This, I have to say, was a brilliant plot twist. I did NOT see that coming. Snow, clearly, knew better than to trust Cora; however, she was so relieved to see her old friend Lancelot that she didn’t question him, until he (Cora) slipped up.

Cora is desperate to get to Storybrooke. (Why? We don’t know. We can probably guess it’s for nefarious reasons AND that it probably has to do with getting revenge on Regina for the whole looking glass banishment thing.) She is foiled by Emma, who sets the wardrobe aflame; the wardrobe is the only known portal back to Storybrooke, and she had to protect Henry. Afterwards, there is a very touching moment between Emma and Snow, where we really see how broken Emma is in places. She has a very hard time trusting people, and she’s incredibly uncomfortable with other people putting her first. She is used to being a badass, but not used to being a badass with friends and people who care. It kind of undoes the edges of her world. Incidentally, Cora reappears after the others have departed, only to scoop up some wardrobe ashes into a bottle; they begin to glow red. It seems like there still might be a bit of magic left in the embers.

Back in Storybrooke, Jefferson (after a sweet pep talk from Henry) goes to find his daughter, Grace. His worst fear that she will hate him, because he abandoned her. Silly rabbit, her face practically cracks underneath her giant grin, when he calls her name. There is a quiet, overwhelming beauty in this reunion; it is something so simple: a father and his daughter, finding each other again. But it took a great deal of hope and vulnerability for Jefferson to get to that moment/place, literally and figuratively. In order to see his daughter again, which is something he wants very badly, he had to risk his greatest fear: that she wouldn’t want to see him. It was an instance of bravery and faith that would warm even the coldest heart. Well, except Cora’s, because I’m pretty sure hers is made of volcanic ash. (I want to see the initial meeting between her and Rumplestiltskin. Because you KNOW that’s going to be fantastic.)

Yes, all magic comes with a price. Almost always, trust and faith do, too. Because those actions are, inherently, a risk, without the certainty of a reward. David must pause in his nearly mad quest to find Emma and Snow, in order to be a grandfather to Henry. This includes a rather cute swordfight toward the end of the episode, which is menacingly undercut by Charming’s fake father glaring from a nearby car. I’m pretty sure I’d notice the man who routinely ruined my life, sitting there – but perhaps his flannel acted as some sort of camouflage. (Seriously, though, Alan Dale is a wonderful actor. He puts some much evil into a single look.)

This episode is all about faith, trust, and being vulnerable. Snow is vulnerable with Emma and vice versa. Aurora, in all her mad grief, is vulnerable. Regina is vulnerable with Henry, and Henry (oddly for him, the previously moral compass for Right and Good) takes advantage of that. Jefferson is completely heart-on-sleeve with his daughter; this is rewarded.

I wonder, though, about the title of the episode The Lady of the Lake. It is a reference to the Arthurian legend, retold from a thousand different angles; the most commonly recognized one is that of a woman, giving Excalibur to Arthur, extending her hand from the waters. In Once, are we to believe that the Lady of the Lake is the dead siren? If so, what is the significance of the title? Is that that all actions come with a price, not just love and magic? In order to save Fredrick for Abigail, Charming killed the siren. This set a wheel into motion, consequences spinning out in all directions. Whatever potential that lake held, it is forever gone. Sometimes, what is lost through one choice is unfathomable. No one can account for everything, and so Charming lost his mother, because she was selfless. And through that, Emma was eventually born. The smallest choice, ripples out, like notes in a song.

Love, and you cannot know what will happen. Trust, and you cannot know what will occur. Show up, and you cannot know how will someone else react. Every action is a risk. Sometimes, the result is a beautiful thing. Sometimes, the endgame is not clear. Sometimes, you must have faith. Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is often a noble act caught in shadows. Only time will tell.

Categories: Once Upon a Time

the small things

October 10, 2012 4 comments


The smallest thing can make a difference.

We often forget that. It’s easy to do. But the truth is still just that: the truth. The unexpected kindness, or the simple act of following through: these are things that brighten a day and lift a spirit. An action that says Hey, I care. It can be something as simple as holding open a door for someone else. Buying someone a cup of coffee. Writing a nice note. Making time for someone else.

These are beautiful things.

When life gets rough, or the day seems long, that is when the small gestures matter most. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It doesn’t have to cost anything at all. The simple act of showing that you care? It’s priceless. (A dear friend reminded me of this, yesterday.)

For me, especially recently, I know how easy it is to get bogged down by the crap life throws at a person. The weather’s turning cold. It’s easy to be cranky. But then, the phone rings – and I feel better. Or I get something in the mail. Or someone sends me a wonderful email. It reminds me that there’s always something to look forward to, there’s always something on the horizon, even if we can’t quite see it yet.

I don’t need fancy things. I don’t need sweeping grand gestures. I need the little things and small choices. I don’t need someone to be perfect. I need you to be present.

In case you need a reminder: the small things often make the biggest difference. So, pick up the phone. Put something in the mail. Hold open a door. Because you never know when something like that will change someone’s day completely.