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Are You Kind?

March 31, 2016 2 comments

 

That’s what matters to me. I don’t care what you do for a living. I don’t care if there are dishes in your sink. I don’t care if your car is new. I don’t care if you haven’t been vacation in years. I don’t care what brand of shoes you buy. I don’t care if your favorite jeans have holes in the knees. I don’t care if you own your house or rent. And I don’t care about what’s in your bank account.

Are you kind?

That matters to me.

You’re not your job or your savings. You’re not your past. You’re not your mistakes, old wounds, or those given to you by your parents. You’re not who you were a year ago. You’re also not the status of your relationship—be it single, married, separated, or divorced. You’re no less amazing if you’ve never been in love. You’re no less wonderful if you’ve been in love and screwed it up. You’re not the amount of success you’ve had, financial or personal. You’re not your failed attempts or those you never took.

Are you kind?

That is really the simplest measure of a person. Notice I didn’t ask, “Are you good?” Because what is good? Who is good all the time? I am not interested in goodness, because people can be good for all kinds of reasons—for the sake of the status quo, saving face, not tipping the apple cart. But kindness is a curious thing. It’s also a beautiful thing. It costs nothing, but means everything.

I remember kindnesses, big and small.

A few years ago, I’d made plans with a friend to meet up one morning. I missed the message he’d left, saying he couldn’t hang out. Realizing I didn’t get the message, he then showed up anyway, because he didn’t want me to be upset. It was very inconvenient for him, but there he was, apologizing because he could only stay a few minutes. I remember hugging him tightly and saying, “But you showed up.”

That mattered. It still matters.

Another time, my best friend brought me hot chocolate at work. I’d been having a bad day. Okay, week. Okay, month. Look, it had been a challenging series of unfortunate events. And she texted me to ask if I could come out into the parking lot. There she was, with hot chocolate on a cold day.

Yesterday, a really busy friend of mine dropped everything to listen to me, as I was having a mini-meltdown and plague of self-doubt. This girl is up to her eyeballs in work, trying her best to do her best, and she stopped to check in and listen. It cost nothing, but it meant the world to me. Giving someone time and attention won’t dent your savings. But it will touch someone’s heart. Trust me.

Money might make life easier. That’s true. But you’re not a dollar sign. You’re flesh and blood, dreams and hope, passion and promise. You’re not a career. You’re not how broken you are. You’re not what you’ve made or didn’t make. You’re not what you’ve left behind or what you’re about to leave behind. You’re not who you’ve loved. You’re not who loved you. You’re not even those instances in which you did not love.

You cannot be summed up so neatly. You cannot be defined so easily. You are not a straight line, and you cannot be boxed in.

Tell me: are you kind? Tell me: do you love?

Good. Now, show those things to the world.

The world needs more kindness and more love.

Start with being kind and loving toward yourself. Then extend that to others.

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Categories: Uncategorized

You do not have to be good*

March 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Make a mess.

No, I mean it. If you’re not making a mess, if your pulse doesn’t race and your breath doesn’t catch it your throat, you’re only half alive. That’s cliché, I know. It’s something people say. But it’s also true. You get one life. You get one now. You get to live. That’s a privilege.

So, live. So, love. Stop conjuring up all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t. Stop caging yourself by way of other people’s expectations. It is your life. This is your story. Stop letting other people tell it.

Forget the script, forget all the reasons why not, push aside every pretense.

Make a mess. Go out dancing. Have margaritas on the porch and talk until 3 am. Kiss until you can’t feel anything beyond the way your lips have swelled. Make someone laugh until both your sides hurt. You weren’t born to take the easy way, to live or love timidly. You weren’t created, a miracle of bone and passion, just to take one breath after another. Tape up your hands, if you have to. Throw the first punch. Speak your truth. Don’t flinch. Square your shoulders. Wait for the reaction.

Then, ignore it.

Make a mess. Cross a line. Change your life. Do worry about polish or neat. Do not pay any mind to what other people are going to think. You are not a coward. And you are not simply the sum of all your past mistakes. The human heart is a miracle, not a math problem. It wants you to smile, dance in the rain, sing karaoke (possibly badly), make out in a car alongside the highway. Honor the holiness of your passions, the way your heart leans. It heart is a wild thing, all instinct and affections.

Let it out. Let it lead. Let it show you what might be, not what has been and not what is. Imagine it. Entertain the idea that everything can change for the better—but only if you’re brave enough.

Only if you let yourself get messy.

Be you. Not the you who pays the bills and goes to work. Forget that you for a moment. That you gets to take the lead too often. Be the you who says fuck the rules, and goes after what you want. Be the you who cuts class or plays hooky and spend the day with a person you love. Allow yourself the space to make absolute chaos, because without chaos, nothing changes.

This universe was nothing more than dust, once. You were nothing more than dust, too.

You only get one life, darlings.

Dare to make a mess of it.

 

*Title taken from a Mary Oliver poem, “Wild Geese.”

What If I Never See You Again?

March 17, 2016 Leave a comment

The other week, a friend I haven’t seen in a while wanted to hang out. The friend in question was supposed to get back to me, and then did not. The lack of response, for whatever reason, was deliberate. There was no tragic accident. It wasn’t even an incident of ghosting. It was basically, “Oops, something better came along.”

You know this kind of person. The one who—when you make plans—always gives you a tentative, “Maybe.” He or she waits for something better to come along or decides to take a nap instead. But then just…says nothing.

Remember Lucy with the football in Charlie Brown? Well, instead of pulling the football away at the last minute (Lucy, you suck; Charlie probably needs therapy for his trust issues now), Lucy vanishes—football and all. And there you are wondering what, exactly, happened.

I never make plans unless I can keep them. I think one of the most important things you can give someone is your time. That’s it: you show up. You call. You write a letter. You make room for someone.

This incident with my friend left me wondering if I’d ever see them again. This happens a lot in life, doesn’t it? Too much time passes and it seems like things are weird. Or whatever. There are a million excuses why not. There always are. (Notice I did not say reasons. Reasons are excuses are not the same thing.)

I started thinking about my mom after this. The day she died, I didn’t wake up thinking that it was the last time I was going to see her. I mean, on some level, you know that it’s soon—but not down to the minute. There’s a part that always hopes, always leans toward the only thing it can: delay.

But she’s gone. And sick or not, people are die. I could choke on a pretzel (ice cream, I will point out, would never threaten my life…just my waistline). I could trip on the stairs. This next breath might be my last. So, old or not, sick or not—nothing is certain. I learned that in the hardest way imaginable, once my mom got since. And again, when she died.

Nothing is certain.

Scary, right? Good. It should be. Because we walk through life too brazenly, sometimes, too wrapped up in a tomorrow that might not show up. We operate under the premise that we’ll wake up tomorrow, because it’s easier, safer. It’s more manageable to assume.

But what if I never see you again? What if you never see me again? What if…

You get the point.

Point is, I’ve been thinking about this pretty hard, lately. The incident with the friend made me think about another friend—someone I haven’t seen or spoken to in entirely too long. Someone who I pick up the phone to call or text, but just…don’t. There are reasons. You don’t get to know them. Hell, some days when I am thinking like this, even I don’t know them. Because what if…

I hate the idea of never seeing someone again. I mean, sure there are certain people I hope I never see ever. But we’re not talking about those. (And sweet fancy Moses, I always seem to run into them. Everywhere. Like an awful game of Where’s Waldo?)

What keeps us from reaching out to someone most often? It’s fear. Fear that they’ll be cold. Fear that they won’t answer. Fear that they will. It’s always an act of courage, reaching out after a long time. Or reaching out after an argument. Or whatever.

But think about it. Think about who that person is for you, and ask yourself: what if I never see you again?

What do you feel? How do you feel? Be honest. Really honest, too—nothing superficial. Life’s too short for that.

Now, take those feelings and put them into action. Because you really never know, darlings. And I’ll tell you a secret, okay? Calling, text, Facebook-ing? It might be scary. But it’s alright to be scared. That’s how you know you’re being brave.

This Is Not an Apology

March 12, 2016 Leave a comment

I want to hear your voice,
but I don’t call. I want to say
I miss you, but I don’t.
I want to be close to you,
so I wear your shirt
to bed. It doesn’t smell
like you anymore,
and I don’t know
if that’s better or worse.

The cruelest thing, lately,
is my memory: the way your laugh
deepens, the feel of your pulse,
the shape of the word safe
etched into your hands, the electric
of your kiss, a shock
of a miracle, warm
as a thousand Springs.

Where did it all go? The everything
that renamed itself
nothing, as if changing love
to mistake erases the truth.
I was there.
I know.
I still can’t say your name
out loud without
the syllables leaving footprints
on the word want.
I still can’t say your name
out loud
because it’s complicated,
because I shouldn’t be here,
because I don’t love you—I can’t,
because I know
how good it felt, then
how bad, and how
in the end, there was nothing
worth forgiving—
nothing worth your fight.

Here, take it. This
mouthful of sawdust,
this cauterized bad history,
this slow bleed, this loss,
this burn, this plastic heart
walking a mile and a half
with one shoe on gravel—
I’m right here.
I haven’t changed directions.
I haven’t snuffed out
the light.

What I wouldn’t give
to hear your voice, to remind
you that there’s magic in it,
and even
when you don’t deserve it,
there’s miracle too.

Sometimes, it still feels
like we’re racing
down the road at night,
no headlights,
just a dangerous curve
I can’t write an ending for.

Here’s the truth:
I fell in love
with everything difficult
about you, all blown
glass and scarred bone,
but what was
underneath the raging quiet,
gathered and howling,
all hot breath
and restless—
I love that too.

This is the poem
I’m writing, because
I can’t call. This is the poem
I’m writing, because
I wish you would. This
is not an apology
for love; this is a pomegranate
heart, an offer,
an argument. This is
my best defense against winter:
my open hands
full of Spring.

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized

The Expectation of Grief

March 3, 2016 8 comments

You point to a box,
call it a house for grief,
say it’s standard issue
and there are no exceptions,
this ration
of walls is all you get.

You gesture toward a moment,
red as a stoplight, and call it
a cutoff, as if the heart
is nothing more
than a too-far-gone
drunk at a bar—
at some point, you must
refuse it service.

You say the word over
as if it is a scarecrow,
as if loss is an easily fooled
bird, as if feelings
can be fed to the wind,
as if a lie
might fly high enough
to become the truth.

You think this is
something I get to walk away
from, that it’s not a car wreck,
a suicide, a bad diagnosis.
You think bandage,
you think hid the pills,
you think medicine
is a miracle.
You think fix.

You think I should
abandon the scaffolding
on a house I only ever
half-built. You think locking
the doors means safe.
You think the number
of days matter, that
the experiment is over
and it was a failure—
but I don’t remember
a hypothesis,
a control group,
a safety meeting.

And I am still here.
I have broken everything.
I have made mistakes.
I have found
my mother’s face
in the mirror—I tried
to let her out, but she won’t
budge, refuses to emerge,
stays silent, stays gone.

I wonder what she would’ve made
of everything, of this, my heart
unhinged, sprung wide open,
a song falling out of a radio,
out of a window,
notes hitting the pavement
like steam, impossible
to prove, impossible to collect.

You say enough now.
You say gone.
You say done.
You hand me a secret
snapped like a wishbone,
uselessly jagged.

This is the expectation of grief—
that things will be okay
eventually—
but what, I wonder, if they aren’t?

Is that better or worse?
Is that brave or more foolish?
Tell me how to let go
and I’ll try. Tell me
how to unlove
and I will remove
all the rusted parts. Tell me
you understand
that the worst advice
you can ever give someone
is judgment.

Categories: Uncategorized