Today, summer is trying
to sneak in through the backdoor,
leaving beams of light
carelessly on my bedroom floor,
tossed like discarded clothes,
these hours stripped naked.
Summer is always full of mischief,
dangerous late nights
and blissful early mornings –
a phone call, a car ride,
a clandestine liaison –
nothing more than a stolen something.
Confession: those are the days
I look for, live for, and want to
curl up in, my heart is half-cat
aloof until you realize
it isn’t – not really, and never
But this morning is full of memories,
late nights on the back porch, margaritas,
and mornings full of love
before coffee – hearts so full
of sky that I began to forget the ground,
because who needs earth in the face of heaven?
I want to know how you love
like the wind – slow and steady,
even when I can’t see you.
I want to know how you kiss
like a revolution made of kindness –
passion that banishes all fear.
Mostly, I want to know
a miracle made of apologies,
and what it feels like
to give you the word home.
Tell me all the ways you want me,
tell me how you’ve seen my smile
in passing branches, and in falling snow,
and in the leaves when they’ve
found a new place of belonging –
and I’ll give you every season,
not just summer. Tell me why
your heart’s so fragile,
tell me why you learned to dig your
heels in, when you should run –
and why you run when you should stay.
Tell me why everything is backwards
and broken, like a half-remembered
dream – offer me one truth for every season.
Let’s start this summer.
Let’s begin with this
sunlight, right here and now.
I’ve been giving the idea of time a lot of thought, lately. Specifically, how we choose to spend our time – and who we choose to make time for. Everything about the way you decide to spend your life is a choice. The fact is that we all have the same 24 hours. We all have to work at balancing our lives, dividing our time between this important thing and that important thing. No one ever said it was easy, but it’s necessary.
Yesterday, I had a particularly enlightening conversation that really drove home a few things I’ve been struggling with the past few months. One of the ways that we show people we can is simply by showing up – making time and being present. It’s that simple. Who we give our time to, willingly, is important. Because life is busy and tricky, and it’s often like trying to juggle an entire circus full of rabid, angry monkeys. In short: slightly terrifying and difficult.
The thing is, though, that people are not obligations. I repeat: people are not obligations. Yes, we make commitments to do things and be places. We have family and friends. And with that, certain things are expected of us. But there is, I think, a different between a commitment and an obligation – perhaps it’s all the emotional aspect. But you commit to a person – and that is a choice. You are not obligated to that person. The distinction, however tenuous, is there. It is never, ever okay to make someone feel like an obligation. In the same vein, one of the worst things you can do to someone is to make them feel inconvenient. Hell, I’ve been there a time or two, and it’s like falling into quicksand made of insecurity and guilt. Not fun.
That conversation, though, reminded me that I’m type of person who always shows up. Unless I’m bleeding or physically unable to get to you, I show up. Because the number one sign that someone loves you? It’s just being there. It’s being there without an attitude, without the feeling of obligation. It’s being there, because you want to be – not because you are forced, either by outside influences or some overarching sense of have to or guilt.
The truth is that I’ve always been the type of person who doesn’t want you around, if you don’t want to be there. I’ve seen far too many people, and been in a few situations, where I’ve watched people do things because they feel as if they don’t have a choice. And, you know, it often turns that person into a resentful, cranky adult toddler. It’s not healthy for anyone involved, and it doesn’t even accomplish anything positive. Truly, there are times in life where it’s better to walk away from something, or someone, who isn’t bringing you joy – who, instead, brings you down quick than gravity, who causes you misery or simply makes you feel less. No one should ever make you feel that way, family or friend. It’s just not okay.
This morning, too, I realized that I am – for better or worse – the person who always makes time. It’s never inconvenient to me, because if I care about you, you’re my people. End of story. No questions asked. I’ve claimed you, minus the flag. (Eddie Izzard shoutout!) If you call me up at three in the morning sobbing, I will get in the car and come over. If you show up on my doorstep, because something happened and you need me, I will drag you inside and listen – and probably feed you. (Mind you, my dishes will probably not be done and my house will probably need a vacuuming. That’s life.) No matter what, I’m there for those who I love. It’s never an obligation. It’s a promise.
But that whole train of thought made me think about certain instances where people stepped up and showed up for me. Little things, even – like phone calls and emails. Or, even, big things – like physically showing up even though it was inconvenient. Because it means something when you make time for someone. It means something when you’re present. Because you’re making a choice – you’re choosing that person. You’re choosing that person when the circumstance isn’t ideal – and that has a kind of beautiful power to it. It speaks volumes about your feelings, too. Because it’s not an obligation. It’s a decision.
Time is a funny thing. It’s finite, though we never know to what degree. It’s important to show up, stand up, speak up, and man up (yes, even those of us with ovaries – we have figurative balls). Tell me who you love and how you show that love, and I’ll tell you who you are. Tell me who you are, and I’ll show you who you love. But in the end, who you love doesn’t matter as much as how you show that love. And you need to show it with time. That doesn’t cost a penny, and it means more than any diamond, darlings.
(after Jeanann Verlee’s “Genetics of Regret“)
I’m sorry I kept calling. Sorry for every time the phone rang and you were forced to pick it up. I’m sorry that it made you uncomfortable to know that you are loved. I’m sorry for the backseat confessions and my lack of fear. Sorry I wrote our story, wrote around our story, and then pretended you might pay attention to all the things I didn’t say. I’m sorry I was what made your life more broken. Sorry that I kept my tears to myself. I’m sorry that I gave you things without expectation, without counting out the cost. I’m sorry all your photo albums are lies, all your smiles don’t quite reach your eyes, sorry that you aren’t free. Sorry you don’t know how to break windows or walls, anymore. Sorry that you trapped yourself. Sorry that you’ve learned to accept your cage. I’m sorry for your lack of brave and my abundance of it. I’m sorry that I was so honest, so open – sorry I let my heart out, wild as it is. Sorry I gave it to you. Sorry I don’t want it back. Sorry that I still miss you, even though it hurts, burning like too many shots of tequila, like too much straight rum, like the time I skinned my knee and then punished it with peroxide. I’m sorry for the way I learned to like the pain. I’m sorry for the way I stopped calling. Sorry for the times I pick up the phone, but don’t dial. I’m sorry for every second it doesn’t ring. I’m sorry for the way my voice has gotten small, how silence snuck into our relationship. I’m sorry for way I can’t stop blaming myself, regret like a flood in my stomach, overturning everything. I’m sorry for all the ways I miss you, but don’t have words for. I’m sorry that I still have hope. Sorry that I’m still waiting. Sorry that I don’t know how to give up or give up. I’m sorry that I love you so hard that it might break me. I’m sorry you’re so far away by choice, sorry you’re so silent that maybe you’ve forgotten your own voice. Sorry that you’re all run and no fight. Sorry that you couldn’t say I love you back, not even just once. I’m sorry that I needed to hear it. Sorry that I cried. Sorry that I’ll never admit this is killing me. I’m sorry for all the ways this doesn’t make sense. Sorry we can’t talk it about. Sorry we can’t talk. I’m sorry that I feel abandoned in a way I don’t quite understand. I’m sorry I’m so forgiving, even when you don’t ask. I’m sorry I’m not like other girls. Sorry that I understand you better than anyone else. I’m sorry I let you go. I’m sorry that I pretended to.
I’m sorry you don’t call. I’m sorry I still need you.
This morning, I was thinking about broken things – specifically, the broken things that don’t seem broken. There’s no outward indication that something is other than it should be. No cracks. No visible tears. No wound or scar. These quietly broken things are astounding for reasons different than obviously broken things. I wrote, once, about my attention being drawn to something, because of unavoidable reality. There’s a certainty in that kind of observable brokenness. A tangible fracture is easier to repair that one that causes pain, but goes unseen.
Emotionally, it’s harder to fix what you can’t see. Further still, it’s harder to repair something you can’t control – and let’s face it, most things aren’t under our control. I had an email exchange with a dear friend this week, and it made me realize a lot of things. It was as healing as it was difficult, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It helped me to examine a variety of broken things, some blatantly so and others more subtlety undone. From that email, here is what I know:
- Not everyone is brave. You can lead by example, but that horse, led to water, won’t always drink. If fact, that fool horse might just choose dehydration instead. It’ not always wise to keep trying to save someone who is so determined to march in the other direction.
- Just because you care enough to move the world, it doesn’t mean someone else does. Sometimes, you’re the person who cares too much. Love is always worth risking everything for, but that’s not someone everyone is capable of.
- You may love someone with everything you’ve got, but it’s not always enough. And it’s never really a cure-all. While it’s hard, it is still damned important to make sure another person knows how you feel, frightening depths and all. Life’s short. It’s too short to keep your damned mouth shut. So, you say your truth, while realizing that you’re the one that owns it – nobody else. Everybody’s got a different view of love, and some people can’t even bear to look at it.
- Those closest to us doesn’t always see us. Occasionally, even they get fooled by our smiles. Sometimes, it’s because they’re too wrapped up in themselves. Sometimes, it’s because actually facing a situation is so entirely frightening that avoidances becomes the easiest solution. But the easiest solution is almost never the right one.
- Selfishness comes in a variety of forms. Ignoring a situation, or even a person, might serve you best – but it might do more harm than anything else.
- Sometimes, the most difficult form of neglect is silence. Sometimes, it’s making someone feel as if they don’t matter, because it’s easier to disappear or avoid. Essentially, running away seems like a godsend, but that might put someone else right in the middle of hell.
With people, we give the most attention those who scream and shout, causing a riot and a ruckus. I once had a friend who created drama wherever she went, because even if it wasn’t pretty, it made people pay attention. But causing a fuss isn’t the only way to communicate a problem, hurt feelings, or dislike of something. The truth is that some people have a tendency to swallow pain. Like cats that hide when they aren’t feeling well, things get bottled up, swept under the rug. What’s wrong, or fractured, doesn’t always show a solid crack. There are often no outward signs. That, I think, is why it’s often so important to pay attention – and not just charge through life with blinders on. It isn’t always easy, mind you, to be invested in those around us and what’s happening around us. But isn’t that what living actually means?
You don’t have to burn down a building to prove that you know how to start a fire. But it also might help to notice a blaze when it’s just smoke, instead of a four-alarm catastrophe.
“Our minds and hearts do battle inside us every day.” ~Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Belladonna Bay
I’m sorry for all the ways I can’t say goodbye.
I’m sorry for the depths my heart travels
when you are near; time and again,
I stand on the train tracks;
time and again, I pretend to dismantle the bomb,
I lie to myself,
and we lie to each other
(I’ve counted these wasted days greedily,
a strained collection of sorrows
that a wiser person might ignore
and a stronger person would cast out –
I hold them as a reminder
of every question I never dared to ask).
I’m sorry for all the times
I couldn’t say I love you; I’m sorry
for all the times I did. I’m sorry
for the stubborn set of my courage,
the way I cannot seem to take no
for an answer – the way I wage
war and love without regret.
I’m sorry that I am braver than you.
I’m sorry that I tried too hard.
I’m sorry that I asked too much
and yet, somehow, too little.
I was never after
what you did not offer, never
less than proud, never less than honest,
never so weak
that I would tell you what I really wanted.
I’m sorry that I always ask
forgiveness, never permission; I’m sorry
for all the secrets I tried to drown
in water too shallow; it was always madness,
it was always, this is my heart –
have it. It was never, I have a claim
to this, give it. Call it a sacrament
or a sacrifice – it does not matter,
either way, my chest is still empty.
I’m sorry for all the wolves
and the broken glass. I’m sorry
for all the times I hid from you,
all the times I refused to cry,
all the worlds I failed to imagine,
because I knew what home felt like,
and how to get there,
and how to stay,
and how to keep it safe.
Somewhere, there is a crow
hell-bent on more than just surviving.
Somewhere, there is a man
who understands that my apologies
are all like water, each word
a rainstorm – each feeling
How long can
two hearts drown? How long
can a mermaid pretend
to be something she is not?
When I was seventeen, I was (despite my own rampant insecurities) completely and utterly fearless. I had no fear of new things, uncomfortable things, or whatever pushed me out of my comfort zone. If I wanted something badly enough, I went after it or I just did it. I don’t exactly know where that courage came from. By all accounts, I was kind of a dork. I was necessarily confident, but I did know how to fake it. Or, at the very least, hide it from those who might use my insecurities against me.
The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about horseback riding. And how she used to have absolutely no fear and would hop on any horse, no matter how bonkers. I was the same way. In fact, my last horse was a handful; he was not mean by any stretch of the imagination. But he was spirited. If you didn’t know what you were doing, he would take advantage of you. As such, I was not allowed to ride him for a long time. I would argue with my mother for the chance to ride him. I lobbied like hell and fought for what I wanted. And I remember, with unflappable certainty, informing my mother that I would ride him – and that it would be okay. It would be more than okay. He and I would be brilliant together. And you know what? I was right. We were. We made the perfect team. (Except for the time he and I nearly ran over my BFF and her horse. In my defense, I thought he would stop. MOVING ON …)
Despite circumstances or even visible observations, there are moments in life that are just like that – where you look at a situation that might seem totally insane and completely impossible, and you just know. There are times where you look at a situation or another person, and you think, “This is completely insane.” But despite that blatant insanity – or, simply, how it looks from the outside – you know that it will be entirely, impossibly brilliant. You know that it might seem crazy to other people, looking from the outside. But there’s the quiet voice inside you know that so full of certainty. So full of yes. It’s totally and utterly devoid of doubt. It isn’t a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. Because, regardless of what might seem like total madness, you know. And you’re ready to take that challenge. You’re ready to take that step. You believe, pure and simply. You are brave, but it’s not even bravery that’s needed to take that first step. Because you know in your heart exactly what’s right. Exactly what you need. Exactly what to do.
And you do it. Forgetting what everyone else may think. Forgetting all irrelevant outside opinions. Forgetting the naysayers and the ones who might tell you, “You’re going to get hurt. This might go badly.” It’s like exactly like getting on that horse, as I did, when everyone thinks you’re completely out of your mind. That horse just got me, and that’s so important (for those of you who don’t know horses – you need trust). Because he would do anything I asked of him. He’d jump anything. He’d try anything. He was a beautiful horse to begin with. But together? We were a badass team. And that’s a magical thing, you know. He made me a braver rider. Sure, he might’ve tried to kill me a time or two, but what relationship is perfect?
As we grow up (more chronologically than maturity-wise), we often begin to shy away from the ability to believe and fight like that – with unvarnished boldness and certainty. I don’t know if it’s because life has a tendency to wear us down or if we just start to forget that we have that possibility within ourselves. That we are as strong and as able to fight as we allow ourselves to be. There are always a million reasons why we shouldn’t do something, go after someone, or change our lives. There’s a stagnant kind of comfort in routine, in keeping things the same, and in staying with what the familiar. Sometimes, too, we are more vulnerable than we’d like to admit, and we maybe feel as if we don’t deserve anything better. Or, maybe, that we really don’t have anything to offer. There’s always the asshole voice that tries to convince us that we’re not good enough or that we can’t do it. Let’s face it: even though we might be totally miserable in a situation, change is terrifying. Change is a wild horse few would dare to ride.
But you know what? That is exactly how we become better – better in all possible ways. I am not always that brave – sometimes, I look at that fictitious horse and think, “Oh, god. No. Not this time. Can’t do it.” Then, I remember my mother. And how she did not believe in can’t or even giving up. And she certainly did not believe in staying inside the lines (even though there were so many times, god knows, where she wished I would). I was sixteen before I ever fell off a horse – and I’d been riding since I was three. And you know what? I landed on my feet in an impossible backflip, holding the horse’s reins in my hand. I was taught to stay on at all costs, no matter how freakin’ stupid I may look. That is a good life lesson too: don’t bail, hang out, and if you do fall, do it with grace.
Today, I am reminded that I’m still that crazy girl who do anything, risk anything, for what she believes in. I’m still the lunatic who dares to try and who always follows through. Who does not give up for the sake of comfort or what might be easier. Who doesn’t get scared off by what might seem completely insane. And if all else fails, I know I’ll land on me feet – and I know I’ll get back on that horse again.
But the truth is, I never gravitated toward simple, and I never, ever will. I want the wildness. I want the crazy. And I know exactly what I dare. Say what you want, there’s nobody and nothing that can ever convince me otherwise. That’s something that my mom certainly taught me: to know myself. And come hell or high water, I know how to be brave – even when it might seem crazy.
Tell me, darlings: do you know how to risk it all for what may seem like an impossible dare?
“nobody can save you but yourself and you’re worth saving. it’s a war not easily won but if anything is worth winning then this is it.” ~Charles Bukowski
“what matters most is how well you walk through the fire” ~Charles Bukowski
There is a lot of magic in the world. Sometimes, it comes in the form of chance – getting all green lights on the way to work, finding $20 you didn’t remember you had, or bumping into a person you’ve been thinking a lot about. You have to pay attention to see it, but it is always there – if you believe. If you’re looking for it. You’ll find it.
Sometimes, if you are very lucky, magic comes in the form of people. Person-shaped magic is, quite possibily, my favorite. Have you ever found a person who you instantly connect with, who fills your world with awesome, wonder, and beautiful things? I’m sure you have. Maybe you married him or her. Maybe you want to.
Or, maybe, she’s one of your favorite authors. And people. And friends.
I’m talking, of course, about my darling friend, Suzanne Palmieri. I met her on Twitter last year, if my addled brain is recalling the date right. I don’t remember how, exactly. We knew some of the same people. She was fun to talk to. And lo and behold, she had a book coming out (The Witch of Little Italy) and a book she co-wrote with the lovely Loretta Nyhan (I’ll Be Seeing You) following not too long after. Like all good book nerds, I bought Suzy’s book, and had I not already adored the hell out of her, that would’ve sealed the deal for me. Because being as awesome as she is – well, that’s one thing. But being as talented as she is? That’s quite another. She’s a package, an amalgamation of bold honesty, stunning flaws, and absolute wonder. She believes. She has that thing that enables people to flourish. And chances are, if you’re her people? One of her Lost Witches? She believes in you. That, my darlings, is a truly spectacular kind of magic.
Something I love about Suzy’s writing is her ability to write things that resonate. Lines and characters that crawl into your skin, make you recall something or someone from your life, and scenarios that reaffirm your own beliefs – reminding you of the importance of being truth to oneself. Of discovering potential you may have forgotten. Of the power inherent in putting yourself out there and allowing yourself to be flawed and to make mistakes. Because that, darlings, is how we learn. That is how we grow. And if anyone knows about going after your dreams, come hell or high water, it is Suzanne Palmieri.
Recently, she’s hand drawn a deck of tarot cards. (They will be for sale.) And she has a daring refrain that everyone could do with hearing: mermaids don’t drown. What does that mean? It means it is okay to scale the depths, to discover the darkness, to remember who you are and that you are capable. Because life is not always about swimming and keeping your head above water. Sometimes, it’s about looking toward the recesses to see what you might find. It’s about taking a chance and letting go – perhaps to let unexpected possibilities in.
Mermaids don’t drown. Because mermaids don’t need what everyone else does. They survive. They thrive. They are unexpected bits of magic. And I believe, as I’ll be Suzy does, that we all have that kind of potential for magic within ourselves – if we allow ourselves to entertain that very idea.
So, next week (May 13th – 13, by the by, is a lucky number, despite what you may have heard), Suzanne’s new book comes out. It is called The Witch of Belladonna Bay. And if that cover doesn’t convince you to buy it immediately, take my word for its brilliance. Discover something that might just change your world. Knowing Suzy, certainly, has changed mine.
Love, Ali (A Lost Witch, Too)
“The only problem is the heart is quiet. It takes a very special kind of person to hear what the heart says. Most can’t hear it at all and they have to guess. There are a lot of people walking around just guessing.”
― Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Little Italy