This is not an easy thing –
to stand still
in the middle of a hurricane,
a moment with long claws
that is more like drowning
from the inside, out. My body
is too much water, not enough flame,
a shallow grave for all my fears,
the old creak of a warrior
did you fight enough?
why does peace feel like surrender?
why does surrender feel like death?
I am not afraid of your scars.
I am not afraid of your complications.
I am not afraid of the cracks
in this story, the torn pages,
or the way our heartbeats
try to act like bandages
for everything else.
This is not an easy thing –
to collapse into silence
like a thousand broken questions.
For this, there are no words.
For this, there is no definition.
It is simply an active miracle,
water changed to wine –
only, someone else is drinking it.
I am afraid of everything I couldn’t say.
I am afraid of everything you didn’t say.
I am afraid of losing you, and my heart
keeps taking swings at my head, neither
fighting fair, neither letting up, and I am
stuck in the middle
between a Band-Aid and a bomb –
apologizing for the mess.
This is not an easy thing –
surviving. Perhaps I am doing it wrong,
perhaps I should smile more, but
I keep thinking too hard
about our last conversation,
about wanting to fight
like a rabid junkyard dog,
but being asked to walk away
(that does not, I should point out,
mean ‘give up’) –
‘it’s complicated’ doesn’t cover it.
I am not afraid of your sharp edges.
I am not afraid of your desperate words.
I am not afraid of the way
I found you, unannounced, in my heart –
living like the way forever feels
when I’m brave enough to say it.
But this is not an easy thing,
to live, at best, like a bad habit,
to wonder if you are the reckoning
or the wreckage – and
to face each day as a question:
still, when you asked me,
What do you want?
All I could say was You.
There is nothing uncertain
Darling, sometimes love is a battle that you are fighting from both sides. Your heart is two hemispheres, reaching for separate outcomes. The world spins on the axis of your erratic pulse. Close your eyes, and it is all stardust – the burning out of a star from millions of years ago. Forget the armor. Forget crest you once wore. All honor changes with time, and what you love demands its own worth. Take a breath, and show yourself how you feel. Unclench your fists and fight that way: without weapons. It is a risk. It is one way to break your own heart. It is also the most beautiful way you can save it.
Tell the truth. Do not tell it slant. Peel it out of every word you’ve been too afraid to say. This is your story. This is proof that good people do terrible things. Sometimes, a broken promise is a miracle. It is water changed to wine, stone changed into a heart, and a love so fierce that takes the place of a pain so vicious. Mistakes are how we learn to breathe again. Nothing clean is ever quite true. Worship the knife edge, the spilled coffee, and the feel of fingers slipping into your hand.
Sometimes, the map is half-burnt, and you are wandering in circles. Sometimes, you are an ocean made of someone else’s desires. Sometimes, you light the funeral pyre yourself to put somebody else’s mind at ease. There are a hundred different ways a soul can burn. There are a hundred different ways a soul can swim. But of all the secrets, this one is the truest: love is a forest fire, and we are all the driest of trees.
I can still taste the ashes in my mouth from the last time you kissed me.
*”Heart on fire, ashes everywhere
— there’s no return from a red like that.” ~ “Fado Menor” by Manuel de Freitas
Love bleeds like a magic trick —
all smoke and wonder,
a secret nobody ever really understands.
Pull your heart out of hat,
hold it in your hand —
does it still beat?
will it still sing?
Surround yourself with water and glass,
chained and holding your breath —
now, decide: escape or drown?
Some would call that drowning love.
I call it a miracle —
when a man learns to breathe under water,
changing his existence.
After all that, disappear.
Walk into an empty space where no one else
can follow, and then —
conjure yourself elsewhere.
Then, question everything:
are you different?
have you learned your own secrets?
do you still believe in the art of an instant breath
just before a kiss?
what are you still doing tied to someone else’s illusion?
Why are you still performing someone else’s fear?
Horses do this thing when they’re afraid or in pain. It’s an instinct, born from an old wildness. Whenever a horse feels pain, its first instinct is to flee. In the wild, they have exactly two defenses: their speed and their hooves. When they’ve been cornered or beset upon by, let’s just say, a mountain lion – the choice is inherent: fight or flight. On a different scale, whenever a horse is injured (doesn’t matter the type of injury), its first instinct is movement. A horse that’s colicking will roll on the ground, which can cause the intestines to twist…making the colic that much worse. Even still, that horse is trying to get away from the pain. The same can be said for when a horse is startled by something it doesn’t understand or something that caught it off guard: it runs. A passing car revs its engine. A hunter somewhere within earshot fires his gun. And if another horse starts running? The herd instinct kicks in, and more often than not, a whole field of horses will start to run.
We, as people, are sometimes very much like that. When we are in pain, when we think there’s danger, or when we are afraid – we go on high alert and often flee. We try to get away from it – whatever it is – and we run. We try to outrun the feeling, the situation, or even the person (the perceived cause). But the thing that people understand that horses don’t, darlings, is that you cannot outrun a feeling. You cannot outpace yourself. You are not fast enough to beat your heart. So, whatever’s in it? It will still be there tomorrow, no matter the distance you tried to put between in and yourself.
Ever since I was a kid, one of my methods of coping with emotions is to sing. If I can pour out my emotions into song, if I can get the feelings out somehow, it might function as a kind of emotional exorcism. In theory. But in practice? Welllll, it doesn’t actually work. Usually it makes whatever emotion I’m experiencing all the more amplified. I realized this the other day, when I was singing along to a song. In a total panic, I realized that my tried-and-true trick wasn’t working. It wasn’t helping. So, without thinking, I got up out of my chair and started pacing around the room. Why? Because like a horse, I was trying to outrun myself. Obviously, that didn’t work, but thinking about it in retrospect, it made me curious.
How often do we try to genuine outrun our emotions, thinking that if we put some kind of distance between us and them (figuratively, usually), that it will make things better? Instead of assessing, reassessing, and honoring what’s in our hearts – how often do we spend time being afraid of what’s there? Of being terrified of its fathomless depths and possibilities? It’s scary, sometimes, to think about what we are really capable of feeling. And, stemming from that, what we are capable of doing because of what we are feeling. If we stop and dare to really think about, the heart is really what allows us to dare and dream – it renders miracles.
The thing about me is that I’ve always been full of hope. Even when it might be considered stupid or naïve. I don’t often flee a situation, and there is a very narrow set of circumstances in which I would. But unlike a scared horse, I know that running doesn’t change what’s chasing you. It doesn’t change what you are feeling. It doesn’t fix anything. And yet, sometimes, we panic. Our first reaction is not always the best. And while I think we’re all entitled to our emotions, I don’t believe that we should ever worship fear.
Because unless you are running toward something or someone, what are you doing? Are you reacting, instead of acting? That’s the question I suppose.
So, my method of trying to redistribute my feelings (the singing) isn’t foolproof. It might only substitute one kind of coping for another (I hate to cry, for instance). But if it keeps me steady enough to stay in one place, to be brave, and to be honest? I’ll take it.
Think about the last time you found yourself overwhelmed by emotions. Think about the last time you just didn’t know what to do with yourself, because of something you were feeling. What did you do?
*“But this is a thing that I know–to live with fear is not to live at all. A man will die every moment he is afraid.” ― Deanna Raybourn, A Spear of Summer Grass
Lately, I’ve been thinking about worth. Specifically, the things we deem worthy – worthy of our time, attention, love, blood, struggle, tenderness, and affections, etc. Worthy, I suppose, of us – of us as people. There isn’t some kind of magic scale. There’s no weight to be measured, to be found sufficient or lacking. You cannot judge a heart by its scars, just as you cannot judge a heart by its fears. Because make no mistake, every heart lives in a sea of its own insecurities, counting out the deficiencies like tick marks on a chalkboard and struggling with all the what-ifs made of nightmares and questions. The trick is not allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the dark. The trick is finding something that, or someone who, is worth more than the indefinable sum of your fears and insecurities. If you can do that, I believe you can do anything.
The other day, in an email, a dear friend told me something that I very badly needed to hear. She said, “And don’t forget it: You are incredibly brave…the bravest I know, and no one can take that away from you.” Confession time, darlings: I am no braver than you are. I have simply gotten into the habit of ignoring the way my pulse bangs around my veins. There are times, still, where I hold the world in like an ocean. Because some circumstance demand our silence. Because some instances require sacrifice. Because some hearts will bend beyond the possibilities of physics. Or biology. Or whatever.
The same day I got that email, I found myself hurled down a dangerous rabbit hole of questions. I began to question myself — if I really was the bravest version of myself, if I had said all the things I should’ve said, or if I’d just said it all wrong. That’s always my fear, right there: that I said too much, too little, or it all just came out in Moron instead of English. But that’s just insecurity talking. That’s just the fear, fed by a thousand old ghosts, taking hold and constricting.
There are times in life where people try to protect us from ourselves in myriad ways. There are times where, for all the good reasons and motivations, our hands are tied and things spiral out of our grasp and beyond our control. Sometimes, this is a question of self-worth – of another person’s inability to see the value in themselves. And my god, nothing makes me sadder than that. Nothing makes me want to rage like Godzilla, smashing Tokyo. Nothing makes me want to hug you more and try to make you understand – try to make you see you as I see you. There are times where I am Pollyanna. Where I wear the rosiest of rose colored glasses. But that’s only a general outlook. If I look at you, if I care about you, I can catalogue all of your shortcomings and flaws. I’m very good at assessing people. But just because I don’t spill them out in front you doesn’t mean I don’t see them. Which, I suppose, is what makes me furious sometimes, when someone cannot grasp his/her own worth.
We aren’t the sum of our flaws, insecurities, mistakes, or bad moments. We are so much more than the dark, aching parts. But sometimes, when the world is shouting so loudly and we are endeavoring to kick ourselves in our own asses, we need to be reminded of that. We needed someone to hold up a mirror and say, “Hold up: look at yourself. See yourself as I see. See the good. Feel what I feel.” That, I think, is often times why we write – we are trying to convince the world of something. We are trying to share some truth. We write to pull the darkness from hearts, possibly even our own. We write to encourage, to free, to question, to reveal, and always to understand. But that is a tangent for another day.
If you love, like, or care about someone or something – that is proof of its worth. Sometimes that is the exact proof we need to see when we need to see it most. Time and attention is never given as an idle thing. It’s a choice. It is, I think, its own revelation. Its own declaration, easier than the kind we cannot always say aloud. We make time and space for the things and people that matter. It’s not easily done or easily found. It is often a struggle, sometimes a bloody one.
But to make something, you have to know how to bend. You have to get creative. You have to give. And you have to keep giving, because nothing in this world happens without a fight. But the funny thing is that all fights are different. And sometimes, fighting means something you would not expect. Sometimes, it means trying to let something just…be. That’s a concept I have always struggled with.
As I’ve been reminded lately, I am brave. Sometimes to a questionable degree. I’m not more spectacular or strong than you. I’ve just learned, like all good lunatics, to ignore the pain for the sake of possibility. I’ve learned to reach, despite the fears. And if I’m striving toward something? It’s worth it to me. Because nothing that requires a sacrifice of any kind is ever bestowed idly. I’m always after nothing less than magic.
What about you, darlings?
*The title is take from this line (“you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.”) is from Marty McConnell’s poem, “Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell.”
This morning, I’ve been thinking about reasons. The reasons we do something or don’t do something. The reasons we fall in love. The reasons we fight for it. The reasons that move us to change careers, move across the country, and even jump off of cliffs with only a giant rubberband to protect us from going SPLAT.
There is, I think, I difference between a reason and an excuse. Sometimes, the line there is fine and a little grey. Sometimes, an excuse looks like a reasonable facsimile of a reason. And even though a reason might seem pretty, polished, pristine, and noble on the outside – the inside is more like horseshit and rotten eggs.
The honest truth is that I rather detest simplicity in that I don’t want what comes easily. I find anything that simply drops into my lap highly suspicious. Because I believe in hard work. I believe in fighting for beliefs. I believe in fighting for change. I believe in fighting for someone. I am, sometimes, incredibly shy. I am not a naturally good speaker when I’m emotional – meaning, my first instinct is to totally shut down and go mute. Not exactly constructive. So, that’s a thing I’ve always worked on.
Sometimes, you watch someone make a choice. And as they do this (possibly in a moment of panic), they ask you something unthinkable. We do this, as people – we ask impossible things of those we love. Or think we love. Or think love us. Because, simply put, when our hearts are involved, everything is messy. It’s complicated. And we become off-key trumpet players in a crazy ass parade.
The funny thing is that love allows us to at least attempt the impossible for the sake of another person. And being in love with someone means putting that other person first, occasionally to our own determinate. So, even if you ask me something that leaves me feeling like half-dead unfortunate roadkill, I will try. Because to me, it’s what you need. Or think you need. Or are pretending to need, because maybe it’s…safer. And me? I am many things, but none of them are easy.
In relationships of all kinds, we are all walking risks. No relationship is ever perfect. It’s never going to be something you’d find on Sesame Street. And that’s okay. Because this is life, and life is messy. But I’ve never been a fan of taking the easy way out, even if it’s for a supposed noble reason. Sometimes, though, the alternative is scary. Because it means change. It means big change. For that to happen, you have to want it. Instead, it’s often easier to just push the other option aside, bury the idea under the rug, and carry on.
But there’s one thing I know, it’s that shoving something out of sight doesn’t alter its existence. It doesn’t alter its effect, either. It might be a quick, temporary bandaid, but it doesn’t fix what’s actually broken. Sometimes, the honest truth is that there is no repair for something, for a situation.
Let’s give a hypothetical. Let’s say that a given situation is an equation with multiple variables. You remove one of the variables to make the equation less complicated, simpler. Doing that might make it look easier to tackle, but it doesn’t actually fix anything. The equation is still a problem, without a solution.
If you’re trying to repair something, you can’t just remove the complicated bit and hope it still functions. That’s like taking a broken carburetor out of an engine and not replacing it. Sure, you’re taken out what’s faulty, but that doesn’t make the car run. It doesn’t make the engine work.
There are so many reasons we take the easy way out. Where we fling ourselves on our Roman swords for motivations that look good on paper. It seems right. It sounds good. It’s a thing you can point to and say, “Look at what I just sacrificed. Look at what I gave up.”
But I cannot say that’s inherently noble. I cannot say that the reason given is necessary good enough, though often times that isn’t my thing to judge. But, to quote from Scandal, “you give for what you love.” Sometimes, darlings, the only thing you have to give is yourself. No matter how much your hands are shaking or the words are coming out wrong.
Love is never a habit. It is a kind of gravity. And gravity doesn’t just disappear because you close your eyes and pretend it’s not there.