Today, I am an unexpected swirl of emotions I wasn’t prepared for. As if one can prepare for emotions. But I am thinking about this year, specifically how it started. There’s a symmetry in that, I suppose, as it comes to an end. There have been a lot of ups and downs. There has been a lot of change, some expected, some always probable, and some impossible to brace against.
This has been a year of getting closer to things, even as they feel far away. This has been a year of loss, of reaching out, of feelings, of love, of heartbreak, and moments. Some I wish I could erase. Some I wish I could capture in a bottle.
Looking back on everything I did and I said, I would not change a thing. I would live or love any differently. Knowing what I know, I would not walk away. I would not back away. I would not choose to run, if going back in time was an option. As tangled as they are, my choices are a knot I would not undo.
This year has taught me that I am strong. That it’s okay to lean on people. And that I can be braver than I thought possible. Hands shaking. Pulse racing. Words fumbling – sometimes, blurting out haha at the strangest moment possible. Because, hey, nerves make a person do odd things. I said I was brave, not perfectly articulate.
Right now, my head is spinning, because 2013 is just a breath away, and with it comes all the expectations and hopes that a new, clean slate can offer. Perhaps it’s silly, but 13 has always been a lucky number for me. Taylor Swift came late to that party.
I do not know what 2013 will bring. I have wishes, like anyone else. I could tick them off on one hand, with fingers to spare. I’m not greedy. I’m not uncertain. I am oddly, impossibly hopeful. That is my default. That is my starting place, my foundation – even in the face of total calamity. I may be an idiot, but we are nothing with hopes or heart. Nothing.
2012 brought out the worst and best of me, sometimes at the same time. I wrote more short stories than ever. I sent my novel out on submission. (I am currently tearing it apart for what feels like the 900th time. Once more into the breach, dear friends!) I watched life ebb. I watched a last breath. I took chances. And I put myself out there. I realize that not everyone can do that, and by hurling myself into the fray, I did the right thing. Not the easy thing. The right one. That’s all anyone can hope for, because some truths do not come with expectation or ulterior motives. They are simply truth. They are simply real. And that is what matters most – saying things that need to be said, even when it’s fucking hard. Especially then. It’s not about what happens. It’s not about what doesn’t happen.
It’s about how you feel. Sometimes, that is really all we have.
You cannot teach a heart to love. You cannot tell it who to love. You cannot control your heart at all. Your heart controls you. And if you keep that locked up, silent, you are also locked up and silent. There are a lot of things that a person can fix. You can be kinder, more understanding etc. You can fake a smile, wanting it to be real. But cannot command your heart to love or not love, not for all the right reasons in all the world.
At this moment, things are a mess. Life is messy. Life is rarely neat and clear cut. If it isn’t messy, it isn’t real. There’s probably something you’re ignoring. There’s probably something, or someone, you are avoiding. Maybe you’re settling. Maybe you’re gritting your teeth. Maybe you’re lying back and thinking of England. But when we are trapped, it is often by our own hand. It is most often a choice we make, because it’s the easier one. It’s familiar. It’s safer. Maybe, on paper, it’s the right thing. And yet, if this year has taught me ONE thing it’s that life is short. Too short. It is too short to spend time on something or someone that doesn’t thrill you down to your marrow. Consider the options, all of them. Things are rarely as clear cut as we want them to be. I tend to believe that there’s always a way if you want something badly enough. If you care enough. If you love enough.
And the end of the day, we all want two things: happiness and love. It’s that complicated and that simple. And for 2013, what I wish for you is both those things in excess. Wherever you find them, however they arrive. Be braver than you think you are. Be vulnerable. Give in, even just a little, to some kind of madness. Kiss someone you love beyond words. Also: love beyond words. Say the one thing you’ve been holding back, even if it means you’re crossing a line. Say it, because it’s true. Make a wish. Make a promise. Remember that things worth having are not easily obtained. Trust your feelings. Write your own story. Do not stay inside the lines. Do not think of how things are supposed to be. Instead, see them as they are. Be honest with yourself. Lying to yourself, even for the best reasons, is a disservice graver than any lie said by anyone else.
You deserve to be happy. You deserve more than just getting by. You deserve good things. You deserve to be loved for exactly who you are. Sometimes, we forget that.
And if you find someone who loves you for you? Hold on to that. Because that, my dears and darlings, is everything.
Remember my neighbor that tried to blind me with the industrial light? If not, go here. For the record, they are actually lovely people, who say hi and act neighborly. I hug their animals. They pretend not to mind. I like them.
I have a new neighbor. I have yet to meet said neighbor, but she did not wave back when waved to – and yes, direct eye contact was made. Supposedly, this is a family with three kids, but unless said kids are chained up in a closet – I have yet to see or hear a single peep from them.
But you know what I DID hear? Their mothereffin’ DONKEY. Now, anyone who has been around a donkey will, of course, tell you they’re cute. But they make an ungodly noise, often at odd hours and sometimes in relation to SEEING a human. I don’t know if this is some kind of hello or a somewhat forceful fuck off of donkey origins. Suffice to say, it is a sound the rivals that offensive decibel of the peacock shriek. However, this donkey is not a run-of-the-mill sort. Oh no, my dear and darlings, it makes a special hideous sound.
I stumbled out of bed early this morning, before coffee and having been woken up at odd hours by The Donkey of Usual Noises, and walked my dog. Mind you, I am bleary eyed, without caffeine, and freezing. And I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard what can only be described as an ear-piercing scream, as if someone had murdered a woman straight out of Hitchcock. At Ass Crack O’Dawn o’clock, this is NOT a sound anyone wants to hear. The only indication that it wasn’t someone ACTUALLY being murdered was that the tail end turned into a bray.
Still, I am fairly certain my heart grew claws and teeth and tried to burrow its way out of my chest. The second time I heard the Murder Bray, I was equally alarmed. Because it is, by gods and garters, a terrifying noise. The kind of sound that makes one exclaim, “DEAR GOD, WHAT IS THAT THING?” as if you were face-to-face with The Pain from the Princess Bride.
Needless to say, this is less than ideal for sleeping or calm nerves. Since the New Neighbor seems about as friendly as a cactus crossed with a serial killer clown, I do not have high hopes for a grand relationship. It isn’t as if said neighbor could DO anything about the donkey’s appalling noises, anyway. Because that’s just what donkeys DO, except the sound is usually less tinged with homicide. They are, I should point out, the type of people who use a golf cart to avoid walking the short distance from the house to the barn. As a horse/farm person of a mobile nature, it’s a bit like a marathon runner taking driving out to get the mail from the box, instead of walking four yards.
My only hope, Obi Wan, is that the Donkey of Death Screams settles in and stops braying at the decibel of Dis. If this happens, I will do a small jig, hug my other neighbor’s chickens, and never speak of this again. Until then, dears and darlings, expect more wacky tales.
Good night, Westley. Good work. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” A.A. Milne
Lately, I’ve been thinking about courage. Specifically, the things that make us brave. As people, we are varying degrees of strength. Circumstances and feelings influence how strong we feel, but our strength is our own. You need to be strong to handle a certain situation. You need to be strong to speak your mind. You need strength to be WHO you are. Without it, you cannot be true to yourself, because you are too easily swayed by outside opinions etc.
But where, exactly, does courage come from? The courage to follow your heart, to take a chance, to sing in public, to say I love you, to tell someone the truth? It’s not a pill you can take. And while alcohol is often called liquid courage, let’s be honest: it’s more often than not liquid stupid. You wake up Coyote Ugly, wondering what exactly you said to your ex in a horribly slurred voicemail that you only vaguely remember leaving.
My point is this: you don’t find courage, shiny, lying on the sidewalk. It’s not a penny you scoop up. It’s not your misplaced keys. It’s not something you order online that arrives in a box with a smile. Instead, it’s the realization that something/someone is worth it. That’s it. It’s that simple and that complicated. It isn’t even always about believing in yourself (although, that certainly helps). It’s about believing in SOMETHING.
Yesterday, I had a conversation that, in the middle of the night, I realized wasn’t quite complete. What I should’ve added is: I believe in you. You are braver than you think, braver than you even know. I get scared too. There are times where my pulse races, and I’m fairly certain I’m having a heart attack. But believing in an idea, in somebody else? It changes everything. It flips the world on end. And I believe in you.
Lao Tzo once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage” – and I couldn’t agree more. You can argue that everyone has a different motivation, but at the center of everything is love, even its absence. It’s the focal point, the ground zero for every brave thing we ever do. Love of the game. Love of music. Love of words. Love of another person.
You can try to look at life through a smaller, easier lens than love – but what’s the point? We are what, and sometimes, who we love – and even if we love. All kinds of love, not just the romantic kind. Our passions matter. The fact that we have passion matters. It is love that makes us brave. Without love, we are all afraid. We are all scared. We are our walls. And that isn’t really living. It’s hiding. It’s slipping into a shell, like a turtle.
That can be all too easy to do. Stepping out in the spotlight, risking our hearts, exposing ourselves to the world — it’s hard. It’s terrifying. But it is worth it. There is no absence of fear. Courage isn’t about being brave when there is no risk. It’s about being scared, but believing/risking/singing/loving/speaking anyway.
It doesn’t matter if you can feel your pulse radiating in your teeth and toes. It doesn’t matter if you can no longer feel your knees. It doesn’t matter that you’ve stripped off the last of your defenses. When something/someone is worth it — darlings, you do it anyway.
Sometimes, we just need to say things out loud. There’s a power in it, but not one of pride or manipulation. It’s freeing to be honest, without expectation. To simply speak the truth, because it’s the truth. Because it’s what you feel. As you learn somewhere after the age of five, not saying something doesn’t make it less true.
As we grow up, we learn to hold a lot in – to keep a lot back. Part of it is probably self-preservation. But a big part – perhaps a large part – is fear. Fear will kill everything, always. We are afraid of the dark, so we keep the lights on. We are afraid of heights, so we stay on the ground. We are afraid of getting hurt, so we run. Intellectually, we may know that there’s nothing in the dark but darkness, that being up high doesn’t mean you’re going to fall, and running away never solves anything. But when fear starts to dictate your actions, you stop thinking reasonably. You stop thinking about all the ways you’re closing yourself off.
I once explained to a friend that I am all heart and no sense. It’s a phrase that I find creeping into my writing, although not intentionally. But it is true. I’m 95% emotions. The other 5% varies depending on the situation. I feel something, and I follow through. I don’t know any other way to be. But after talking to an extremely dear friend tonight (you know who you are!), I started to think about the things that I regret, and I know without hesitation that each one is something I’ve held back. Something I haven’t said. A conversation that I always expected to happen, but never materialized. At least one of those conversations can never, ever happen now. And that’s on me.
But life is a funny, epically weird, nonsensical, short, mad masterpiece. If there is ONE thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that things should be said when they’re felt. It doesn’t matter what happens. It doesn’t matter what the fallout is. It doesn’t matter if it all explodes. Because chances aren’t something you buy at the grocery store. You won’t find them in the aisle marked OPPORTUNITY.
Too often, we wait for the right time to say something. The perfect moment. A good time. But the truth is, there is no right moment. There is no good time. It’s a myth. It’s an excuse. It’s a way to put things off. Oh, this isn’t a good idea right now… It’ll be better to wait a week. I should let the holidays go by first. It’ll be easier after [whatever].
All of that is pure and simple horseshit. Steaming horseshit. (Because it’s, you know, fresh. You’re welcome for that image.) Those statements are things we use to keep ourselves from taking a risk. Because we’re scared. Because being brave isn’t easy. Because change isn’t easy. Because truth isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean those things are important. Without bravery, change, and truth – who are we? And what is our life?
I am not a naturally brave person. I hate confrontation. I do not like uncertainty. But I hurl myself out there, because I’d rather look the fool than wonder. I’d rather be brave, instead of small. I would rather say the things that are true, simply because they are true. No agenda. No ulterior motive. Just honesty.
I don’t want to fall. I want to fly. But the only way to find out is to jump.
somewhere, fear crawls
out of the rain, falling as a mist
born out another place, Avalon
or Brigadoon, a story
told to teach a lesson
or to keep the dark at bay.
The rain does not keep time.
It falls without mercy.
I walk through it to find you.
if you are looking for a fool,
she may, indeed, be me. I unlaced
my heart without a backwards glance,
biting the apple without a blink,
speaking the prophecy out of turn,
and deliberately picking the seeds
out of the pomegranate –
what is six months in hell
if my fingers are met by yours?
It’s time to leave the tapestry,
to forget the mirror as it cracks,
to escape the maze
by the golden thread that binds us.
never mind the monster, pursuing.
never mind the ghost, wailing.
never mind the warnings
and briefly written allegories —
it’s time to trust the story.
The simplest way to know me is to read. To follow along as best you can, guessing at the metaphors, ignoring the misplaced commas. I am nothing more than a pretty cover and sloppy grammar. My font is questionable, a bastardized Comic Sans, eleven points so that you are forced to strain your eyes. I’ve been designed to distract you from all other realities, if you finger through the pages, looking for escape.
Mind the way you turn from one moment to the next. My title page has been removed, leaving a ragged reminder. My spine is worn out. Serviceable, though well-used. Occasionally, when opened, there is a still a slight creak.
My pages are creased, bent to hold a place that no longer matters. I have notes scribbled in the margins, some in pen and permanent. Others scrawled in nearly illegible pencil, halfway hidden by smudges and time. Do not look for page numbers or conventional order. At best, I am playing at Faulkner. At worst, I am a line from Tennessee Williams. My enjambments are deliberate. My stage directions are dangerous. Mind the bear, always pursuant.
Keep in mind that my verbs don’t always match my subject. I am tense in any case. I do not always stick to English. I’m strung out on rolled Rs and three different words for love, all equally difficult to pronounce. Translate only as much as you dare. Conjugation optional, but preferred. Just don’t expect poetry in any form. I cannot be constrained by a syllable count or a rhyme scheme. Do not look for sonnets, here. My lack of couplets will disappoint you.
Whatever you do, do not read the dedication. Do not look for your own name. You will not find it. I’ve already hidden you on every page, even the ones I have not written yet.
you and I
are goldfish, forgetting
and remembering each other
like it’s the first
and last time.
the memories pile up
like water, until they
are the only thing left to breath,
of you and me, me and you,
witnessed by strangers
that wear our eyes.
i love you.
where did that come from?
who said that? And why
do I feel
as if oxygen doesn’t matter,
that the only thing worthy
is the breath between a kiss?
are easy enough
to kill, but feelings
are the scales across our bodies.
i love you.
something I am not supposed
to say, although I pretend
not to remember why. I imagine
us somewhere else,
not a fish bowl, but an ocean,
a lake, anywhere.
then, I forget you.
then, I forget myself.
who are we, and how did we get here?