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About Wildness and Beauty

December 31, 2019 2 comments

               The year is winding to a close, and it’s unavoidable to take stock in everything. What happened. What didn’t happen. What you did. What you didn’t do. We’re so often taught that the measure of a person’s success is X or Y. We’re taught to weigh our lives by accomplishments, as if there’s a checklist somewhere of unquestionable Success.

               Not to upset any apple carts, but I find that measure to be lacking. What I will tell you is what you carry into the new year matters. And so, not to be too Neil Gaiman about it, but:

               In this coming year, I wish you bravery. I wish you to find the courage that’s been nestled in your bones and seize it. I wish you good adventures and wonderful surprises. May you find yourself laughing happily at 3am and dancing around the kitchen just for the sheer joy of it. May you recognize the importance of your own happiness not as something selfish, but something necessary for life. You can draw breath, punch a clock, and stay safely within the lines someone else has drawn—but is that true happiness?

               May you kiss someone who thinks you hung the moon, whose smile changes into starlight when they see you, whose arms feel like home in the purest sense of the word. May you be bold enough to start over if you need to, but wise enough to embark upon it kindly. May you find yourself appreciated just as you are, not less. Real love is messy, often ridiculous—embrace it. It’s the only thing that makes this difficult life worth all the myriad trouble.

               Hearts are strange creatures, but when you find a steady one—despite all the calamity of life—that’s a rare offering. When an impatience person shows infinite patience, may you appreciate it. May you know your own wildness, your own solid courage. May your soul be lighter in pursuit of what makes your face light up. What brings you unquestionable joy.

               Life is complicated, messy. Make art through it all. Approach things with a borrowed boldness, if you must. But don’t count yourself out, ever. This universe is wide and often unexpected. There’s always the next moment. There’s always the next yes.

               Let’s let next year be about wildness and beauty, love and all its insanity, hope in all its defiance. I’ll meet you on the other side of the chaos, kittens. I guarantee you it will be worth it.

steal a star

November 20, 2018 1 comment

I used to hate the quiet. Not all the time, but enough of the time. The silence tended to fill up with anxiety or worries or moments that repeated, like a bad movie. Stupid thing I said in seventh grade? Sure. Awkward business meeting? Yeah, why not. Things I left unsaid? Heaps. Piles. A universe of those. A small universe, but still.

Unsaid things are strange creatures. There are a host of reasons we don’t speak up, and they all cast their own inexplicable shadow. Sometimes, we just lack courage, because words are scary. And words are always attached to feelings. And feelings, they can be terrifying. I say that as a person who feels more deeply than is reasonable. Then again, no feeling is reasonable. They’re the opposite.

I went to a family reunion over the weekend. It was the first one I’d been to since my mom died. Every time I thought about going to the previous ones, I couldn’t do it. It hurt too much in a way that I can’t pin down. No, in a way I don’t want to pin down. But I will: it’s hard being there without her. That emptiness where she used to sit, the space she used to take up. I didn’t quite know how to occupy it without her. So, I held myself back, because it was safer. Or it felt safer.

It wasn’t safer. The truth is, when you hold back, that’s the most unsafe you can be. You build things up in your head, all the what-ifs turn into mountains or monsters. It feels insurmountable, so hanging back gives the illusion of safety. A harder truth: safety is often an illusion. It’s something we cling to the idea of, because the alternative is alarming. I could cross the street and have a heart attack. I could trip over my insanely giant, but somehow always underfoot, dog and break my neck. I could choke on the damn taco I’m planning to have for dinner tonight. (Betrayal!)

Sometimes, in life, we hold our breath instead of breathe. There’s no magic in it. Nothing happens, because it can’t. And we lose that time, those moments, the things uncountable and unknown. Time, once it passes, is gone for good. It’s why poets write about seizing the day, the wreck of things we’ve lost or let slip, all the heartbreaks and heartbeats, the kisses, the adventures, the glorious moments we surprise ourselves.

Anais Nin once wrote that we “write to taste life twice,” and it’s true in a lot of ways. It won’t taste the same as the moment, but it’s like a familiar smell triggering a memory. For a moment, you’re back in a car with someone kissing your forehead, walking down an alleyway, or holding out your hand to someone. For a second, you’ve taken time and feelings and put them in a bottle. That’s a kind of magic right there.

All my best decisions, all my best moments—they haven’t been neat or orderly. They have not be silent or withheld. They’ve been noise and mess, calamity and laughter, inexplicable yeses and full of brave. The other day, I was reminded that the best things often emerge from the instances in which we surprise ourselves. The pulse-jarring moments in which we truly, for better or worse, grow.

The life we get is often shaped by outside factors—people, circumstances, choices. But the life we dream about should not be limited by anything. Often, it seems like there’s no way to grasp the hopes we’ve glimpses. The rare moments of bright, unruly madness that shine like stars: far away and breathtaking. But what if you could reach up and steal a star out of the night sky? What if you could rearrange the world—your world—by daring to?

Sometimes, in life, we start on a path and assume we can’t change it. That’s remarkable, decidedly not true. The only time you cannot change something is when you’re dead—or, if it involves someone else, the other person is. If you’re alive and reading this right now, congratulations, you have this moment—what are you going to do with it? (And if you’re dead and reading this, my apologies—and stop stealing all of my left socks.)

When my mother died, I promised myself I wouldn’t hold back when it mattered (for the most part, I have succeeded). I gave myself permission to do the scary things, the unexpected things, the kind of stuff that leaves you smiling at the memory. And the truth is, the more you reach for life, the more it offers you. You owe it to yourself to show up to this chaos circus of a life. To open every door or break every window. To dream big and wide and go after what might seem impossible.

I used to hate silence. I used to hate waiting. I used to hate the unknown. Now, I speak when it matters. I exercise patience when it’s needed (that is still a work in progress). I look at the unknown as an opportunity. Because, man, life can be surprising. What if the surprise, what if the adventure just around the corner is good?

It’s not time to chase after it. No, it’s time to meet it halfway. Pull the stars out of the sky and embrace the whirl of the unexpected. The best things in life are almost always found in the madness.

Stand Up and Beside: Seeing Women as People

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment

 

 

With all of the appalling sexual assault being finally dragged into the light—the abuse of power, the harassment, the general douche-ery of it all—hearing people speak up has been impressive. First and foremost, the victims who had been courageous enough to speak out have blown me away. In particular, a couple of nights ago, this included Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, and Sophia Bush. Chyler Leigh, Emily Bett Richards, Caity Lotz, and Melissa Benoist have stood in solidarity with those speaking out, as have Grant Gustin, Chris Wood, and Stephen Amell. The women are inspiring. The men are thoughtful and articulate.

 

Those three men , although I don’t know them personally, are good people. They’re good allies. There’s nothing disingenuous or performative. Their outrage is grounded is disgust and a seething kind of fury. There’s no cushioned words or soft statements. There’s sharp denouncements and well-worded promises. It fills my heart with hope. It does me good to be reminded that there are men out there who hold authority and choose to stand by and behind women. No excuses and no misdirection. No denials or wishy-washy promises.

 

Although sexual assault and abuse is not relegated to Hollywood, it’s easy to focus there are a clear example of wrongdoings. It has, lately, been an avalanche of gross revelations—but as any woman (or abused man) can tell you, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Like cockroaches, if you see one, there are many. And, like cockroaches, the problem only gets worse if left untreated and unaddressed.

 

This is no witch hunt. Because witches (women) were the persecuted during the Salem Witch Trials. Women were not in a position of power, then, and they were the victims. The onslaught of accusations, right now, are coming from women. That’s not to say that men are not also mistreated and are victims of sexual assault. But I can only speak to being a woman in this world, where I have a practiced polite smile for uncomfortable situations. It never reaches my eyes. It’s an attempt, always, to diffuse a situation until I can extricate myself. Until I can get somewhere I am safe.

 

Here’s the thing, though. A few days ago, I read a statement of outrage from a man who was appalled that another man sexually assaulted an 11 year old girl. We can all agree that’s vile, unacceptable, and criminal. But the genesis of this person’s horror was that he has a daughter. I understand that because of that, his outrage hit close to home. But a woman should be need to be related to you for her to matter.

 

I am a daughter. But that does not define me. If I only matter because I’m someone’s something, it’s dehumanizing. It makes me tantamount to someone’s belonging, not my own person. I matter, because I’m me—not because of how I’m related to somebody. I understand that an issue can become personal, because of personal feelings and relationships. You have a child, and you’re worried for that child. Because the world is, all too often, a raging dumpster fire surrounded by rabid wolves.

 

Don’t get me wrong: outrage over things like this is GOOD. It is necessary. Realizing that something could, or has, affected a woman you love/care about is huge. But that is a starting place. It’s a step in the direction, not the whole journey. There’s more work to be done. In order to fully tackle the root problem, we need to do something revolutionary: see women as people, not associations.

you find yourself in a forest

April 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Life can be so unexpected, sometimes. We often try so hard to keep it neat, clean, within the lines. Only walk in a straight line, stick to the plan. And I get this. I’ve been there. The unexpected can be scary, because it’s almost always a hell of a question mark. Even when presented with a choice, you then have to be brave enough to choose. Left or right. Leap or stay. You either hold your heart within your chest or offer it in the palm of your hand. You walk down a new street, into an unknown alleyway and see what happens—or you take the same route you’ve always taken.

These seem like clear cut decisions: you either do or you don’t. But that’s hardly the whole story, as much as we may want it to be. Because when making a choice, you find yourself in a forest. The forest is kissed by fog and soft light. There’s one path before you, and you know where it leads. It is a path you’ve walked before. It is safe, steady. Destination certain. There’s no guesswork. You can easily just keep walking, put one foot in front of the other.

But off to your left, you hear a noise. The snap of a twig, perhaps. The crunch of leaves. You turn and look. You lock eyes with a white stag. And for a moment, you hold your breath. For a moment, you don’t even remember where you are. All you can see is the gleaming white fur and kind eyes. You can feel your heartbeat thrumming in your chest, breathe leaning against your ribs. And you wonder at the beauty there, a thing you’ve not seen before.

The deer turns and walks the other way. You then have a choice: step off the path and see if you can catch the deer—or keep going the way you were. Resituate yourself in the familiar and keep to the path. There’s no guarantee you’ll even catch the stag. You might wander after it and never grasp it. You can try and still not succeed. That’s the catch. There are no certainties here, but there is always merit in the journey. It might not go the way you think. It might even be better than you had hoped. But you have to suss out, often in too short a time span, what you want. If you’re brave enough to do the unexpected thing—to say, “to hell with it,” and walk in a direction, knowing that you probably won’t ever see that path again. Knowing that to step off of it means an entirely new world. And it is, of course, terrifying and thrilling, the spark that lights the flame inside your heart.

You have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to fall. You have to be willing to explore a part of the unknown. You could lose sight of that stag and never catch it. But what if—what if you did? There’s a crazy amount of joy in that. There is courage in stopping to think you might get what you want. A lot of things in life come down to how brave you are, how brave you’re willing to pretend to be. There’s no absence of fear, only telling it to shut up. Fear doesn’t get to run the show.

I have been that girl in the forest. I have looked at the easy path. I have seen the white hot flash of possibility. When given the choice, when my heart starts to race a certain way, the path stops existing for me. There’s just the curving beauty of a question mark, the stark pull of maybe, what-if clamoring for acknowledgement.

Today, what would you do, if you found yourself on that path? Are you brave enough to follow that deer?

Love That Feels Like Art

February 2, 2017 2 comments

Darlings, I am going to give you some advice. Now, I know you didn’t ask for this, but after a conversation I had yesterday—I think it’s needed. And with Valentine’s Day coming up, I figure it can’t hurt.

 

If you’re single, it’s okay. Bad failed first dates—dates that lead nowhere? That’s okay. That’s not a reflection of you. If someone doesn’t appreciate you for who you are (not funnier, not taller, not prettier), then that person is not right for you. Period. You are not unworthy or less, if someone cannot see all the wonderful things about you. If you have to change yourself (physically or personality-wise) to fit into someone’s life/heart? Well, that’s not real love.

 

And let me tell you something about real love: it will blow you away, once you find it. It will lift you up, not keep you down and never keep you small. Crazy Muppet hair will be appreciated. All your humor will be endearing. Because finding someone who cares for you just the way you are? Man, it’s magic. And it will do your soul more good than a thousand empty, shallow relationships.

 

Because you are not a vague ideal of a person. You are not a silhouette. You are blood and flesh. You are years of gathered wisdom and experience. You are a person, not a human-shaped checklists of requirements. Life is too short to be with someone just to be with them. It’s too short to settle. It’s too short to be anything less than 100% bloody you. Because you are excellent, just as you are—rambling and nonsense included.

 

Find someone who loves your weird. Find someone who loves your flaws (spoiler alert: that person won’t see all the bad crap you see about yourself). Find someone who sets your soul on fire. Find someone who thinks your taste in books (or comics or movies) is fantastic. Who can match you Princess Bride quote for Princess Bride quote. Someone who encourages and supports you without hesitation or question. Because that’s what you deserve.

 

And me? I’m single. I may be single for the rest of my life, and that’s fine. I know what I deserve, and I won’t take any less. Sure, I’ve been on my share of bad first dates. And it’s rare than anyone gets a second. Does that make me a snob? No. I just know what I want. And I know what it’s like to be understood and appreciated. Anything less is…well, bullshit.

 

If someone wants you to be thinner or younger, blonder or more poised, or somehow more easy/manageable? That person is not right for you. That person is not worthy of you. Because real love can find you in the most unexpected place and the most unexpected time. And the secret is, even if it seems insane, it’s worth it. It’s worth all the crazy. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in time and effort. It doesn’t mean love isn’t work. But it’s the good kind, like pursuing a passion you love. Like doing something you can’t live without. For me, real love is like writing. I can’t breathe without putting words down on paper. If I don’t write for a while, I feel so off-kilter. So…un-me. Love is like that too. Not a need or a want—but somehow both. Easy, like second nature, an instinct.

 

Find the person who feels like art. Who thinks of you when they’re falling asleep. Who meets you for coffee and remembers how you take yours. Find the person who lets you in and asks you to redecorate, not the one who expects you to slide into what’s already that. Because love changes you, on both sides. And it should. But always, always for the better. It’s not that you aren’t whole to begin with. You are. It’s finding someone who matches you, step for step, without ever thinking twice.

 

Believe me, darlings, you deserve that kind of love. Nothing less will do.

Wishes for the New Year

December 30, 2016 1 comment

Every New Year’s Eve in recent memory, Neil Gaiman writes his advice/wishes for the new year. Spoiler alert: I am not, in fact, Neil Gaiman. I’m not even British. We both do have unruly hair, though. But if I ever start drinking tea regularly instead of coffee, well…assume I’ve been kidnapped and am trying to signal you for help. Same goes for drinking decaf.

Where was I? Right. Neil’s advice. It’s sage stuff. Like all his writing leans toward, it’s perfectly phrased, deceptively simple, and sure to resonate somewhere deep within your heart. That fantastic bastard is pretty damn talented. (I don’t know him well enough to call him a fantastic bastard, but just go with it.)

In the same tradition of the Crazy Hair’d Gaiman, here are my wishes for you, for this coming new year.

  • Be yourself as brilliantly as wildly as you can.
  • Write the thing that scares you to the depths of your self-conscious heart. Make the art that you’re not quite sure you can, because the truth is – you won’t know until you try.
  • Find someone and encourage them in their pursuits, because we are meant to lift others up, not keep them down.
  • Let go of what doesn’t (sometimes, who doesn’t) light you up. Life is too short for tepid, okay, and painfully familiar.
  • Go on adventures, even if it simply means taking a different route home from work.
  • Don’t try and get something right the first go around. No one does that. Even da Vinci had first drafts. You can always fix what you’ve created, but not what’s still stuck in your head.
  • Stop explaining your choices to anyone who does not support you.
  • Read books outside of your comfort zone/genre. Read diversely.
  • Don’t accept less than what you deserve. Compromise, but do not compromise yourself.
  • Love as deeply and as honestly as you can. Whenever you can.
  • Kiss, hug, and cuddle whenever you get the opportunity, because touch is a language that needs no translation. Kiss someone who thinks you’re magic and real, all in the same breath.
  • Speak out and speak up – for yourself and in defense of others. We weren’t put on this earth to be cowards or to bow to anyone or anything that is unworthy of respect.
  • Figure out what Carrie Fisher would do, ready your middle finger, and sharpen your tongue. Same goes for Bowie and Prince. Sparkle. Wear funky clothes. Don’t conform.
  • At the end of the day, tomorrow is not promised. The next choice you make could turn your life into magic. So, open your heart and go shine your light into this world. It needs your light. And that’s the only way to chase out the dark, darlings: share the light.

 

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Snap Out of It: On Bravery

June 10, 2016 2 comments

It’s funny, sometimes, how often we put up with something, because we think we have to. For whatever reason, it’s good. It’s deserved. It’s honest. It’s justified. It’s necessary. It’s the only way. Ad nauseum. We go along to get along, because in a strange way, it’s almost easier. A familiar cage, regardless of the damage it does, is at least a known difficulty. Otherwise, what’s next? Otherwise, what’s out there? Otherwise, what might happen?

The dangerous, wonderful thing is that everything might happen. And that can be scary, because there are always too many variables to account for. So, you stay stuck in the mud. Smile pretty. Pretend that you like it. But really, when it comes down to it, you’re just hanging around in wet dirt. There’s nothing pretty or honest about it.

People are often dead scared of the loss of control that comes with making changes. Of following your heart. Of honor what inspires passion in you. But to quote my wise, badass, brilliant friend Deanna Raybourn, “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.”

Fear is the worst kind of bully. It lives in your head. It pulls out all your biggest worries. It hurls what-ifs and regrets at you from the inside, when you’re at your weakness. It reminds you of the look n your mother’s face when you’ve disappointed her. It offers you the low, disapproving whistle of friends and colleagues. It hands you a sharp blade made of everything bad that you carry with you, past sins and those that don’t even belong to you. Things that simply hang over your head and maybe always have. Fear holds that blade to your throat and tells you to stay put. To stay within the lines. To bleed if you have to, but don’t you dare or be different. Don’t blink. Don’t breathe. Just stay.

Darlings, if I may offer some wisdom: screw that. There’s nothing noble or worthy of suffering. There’s nothing beautiful about pain. There’s nothing glorious about allowing yourself to stay small, just to keep other people happy. There’s nothing charming or wise about rooting yourself to a rotted foundation, moment, or idea. It’s the opposite, really. It’s cowardly. It’s knowing there’s possibility out there, and eating the same bag of shit, day in and day out. Because, hey, at least you have that bag of shit. Some people don’t even have that.

Right. But at the end of the day, you’re still shoveling crap into your face and calling it necessary. It’s not. One of the most important things in this life is to surround yourself with people who encourage, love, and support you. Who might tell you when you’re being stupid, but in a nice way. Those handful of folks who always have your back and who always cheer you on, near or far. No matter the distance or how much time has passed. Because, yes, you need to be brave to start with. You need to make the choice to be brave.

But, sometimes, you always need a Moonstruck Cher to slap you across the face and tell you to snap out of it. Because life is finite. And love isn’t. Because the days all contain the same 24 hours, but our hearts contain whole universes. Because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, but this breath—right now—is.

I was talking about bravery, yesterday. It’s not an absence of fear. It’s never that. It’s often not even actually feeling competent at all. It’s taking a deep breath and doing the thing anyway, even if you feel like throwing up. I don’t know anyone who is truly fearless. That’s a word we use when someone is terrified, but is also hell-bent on being a badass. Me? I’m scared all the time. I’m scared about a lot of things. I’m a chronic overthinker, who worries and fusses like a champ. I run through conversations, real and possible, in my head. I examine things from a ridiculous number of angles. I am not good at letting things lie, and I don’t know how to calm down sometimes. So, yeah, even if I look collected and at ease, chances are, my emotions are dialed up to 11—and my brain’s on hyperdrive.

However, scared or not, I’m still here. Which means I owe it to myself to be scared, but not let the fear own me. It means that I still have a chance to accomplish something, to change, to achieve, to the thing—to alter my fate, if you want to look at it like that.

I’m a girl who believes in singing along to the radio at the top of her lungs. I believe that hanging out with your best friend may not solve all problems, but it sure dulls them. I believe in laughter at 3am, tequila, and pasta. If I love you, I’ll feed you. It’s not up for debate. You’re eating. I believe in T-shirts and photographs. Feeling the grass between your toes in the summer, because shoes are optional. Cartwheels and hammocks are equally fun. The beach is a balm to the soul, and there’s nothing a glass of wine and a good joke can’t help. I believe in the power of words and the way your name can sound safe in someone’s mouth. I believe in doing the impossible, because someone says it can’t be done. (Yeah, screw that asshole. He ain’t seen nothing yet.) I believe in getting up every time you fall, because pain doesn’t mean you quit. And screwing up never means giving up on what matters. And what matters to you? Deep down in your bones and heart? What sets you on fire and brings an unbidden smile to your face? You fight like hell to keep that stuff in your life. No matter how difficult, you throw down. Tape up your hands and take a swing. Because you give for what you love, darlings. Always.

At the end of the day, I know how to walk through fire. I know how to hold still in a hurricane. I know how to get knocked down and haul myself back on my feet. It’s not because I’m a paragon of virtue or awesomeness. I can’t perform an actual miracle. I’m the furthest thing from perfect you’ll find in the tri-state area. But my momma taught me not to cower to bullies, not even those in my own head. She taught me that you fight for what you believe in—and to always believe in myself.

So, maybe you’re sitting there looking at your life, terrified, wondering what-if. Maybe you’re trying to do the impossible. Maybe you’re surrounded by naysayers and assholes. Maybe you’re trying to find out how big your brave is, because you want something. Maybe you’re in love, but you don’t know how to say it—or those words just plain old scare you.

If you are, hear me right now: you are capable. You are worthy. You are a badass, and don’t let anyone make you think you don’t deserve what makes your heart race. You weren’t made to apologize or beg. You weren’t made to spend your life stooped and stuffed into a box. You were made to shine like a goddamn supernova.

Go out and do just that.

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.

Please Don’t Boil That Bunny: Some Thoughts on an Online Creeper

September 26, 2014 10 comments

So, something happened yesterday, and I need to talk about it. It was actually the last straw in a series of unacceptable behaviors, in which I ended up blocking someone from all forms of online contact. This person happens to be associated and responsible for a fairly well-known magazine. And while I have no intention of naming names, I feel like the experience might be more universal than I’d like.

This was someone I ‘met’ on Twitter. He had several friends of mine in common. He seemed nice and even sent me some merchandise for his magazine. We started talking on Gchat, which was fine at first. Except over a short period of time, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. If I was unavailable to DM on Twitter on the weekends, there were guilt trips (I’d declined giving him my cell number, thankfully). If I couldn’t Gchat throughout the entire day (because of work), there were guilt trips. The whole relationship started to exhibit hallmarks of a controlling boyfriend…except we weren’t dating. He is married, and I am not available. When it become clear that he was unhappy with my lack of time to chat, I explained myself multiple times (work taking priority). Each time, I came away from the conversation feeling as though nothing I said got through to him. I’d still, in his mind, let him down.

At one point, when we were still Gchatting, he mentioned a cat. I said that he should tweet a photo. Because, guys, I love animals. I’d happily coo over a photo of a hedgehog or whatever any day. Instead of doing that (safe and public, yes?), he emailed me a photo of the cat…and himself. Now, it wasn’t a dirty photo. But it still made me uncomfortable. Admittedly, toward the beginning of our correspondence, he repeatedly asked ME for a photo, and I did cave – I emailed one of me with my book. Because BOOK. The fact that he told me I looked ‘coy’ ensured that I would never send him another one again. Because I wasn’t coy. I was proud of my book.

Except, given that this IS the internet, he started replying to the photos I posted on Twitter. These were statements that made me feel increasingly uncomfortable, given the increasingly uncomfortable situation. Privately (multiple times) via Gchat, I explained that I was uncomfortable, especially in light of two instances where he tried to pressure me to attend writing conferences. (For the record, his response was basically the classic, “Oh, I don’t mean it that way.”) One instance, I flat out told him that I don’t think my boyfriend would appreciate me blowing him off for a weekend to attend a conference. The attempts to get me to go to the conferences weren’t simply, “Hey! This is cool. I’m going. You should go.” His behavior was coercive and almost…bullying. Some of this took place on Twitter, but there was much more behind the scenes. Eventually, a godsend of a friend told me that you can block someone from chat on Gchat, which I did.

That helped for a while. Except, since he wasn’t getting the response he wanted from me (and he gave me crap about not being available to chat), his behavior only got worse. At one point, I stopped posting photos on Twitter. Even now, I post less of them. The photos I share are just me being goofy, but I felt so uncomfortable and creeped out. They weren’t fun anymore.

So, why didn’t I immediately cut all ties? First, I worried that I was overreacting. I know at least four people (who are all LOVELY human beings) who know him. Given that, I worried that maybe I was just being sensitive. Maybe I was misreading the situation. But all these events kept piling up, until one giant red flag. In response to me mentioning a mutual friend, who I didn’t realize he knew, he said something like: Well, I know EVERYONE in this business.

Okay, I know a threat (veiled or not) when I see/hear it. That is clear cut intimidation. I’m a writer. I’d submitted to his magazine. Would there be repercussions if I cut all ties? I wondered. I worried. I hemmed and I hawed. Then, after mentioning this situation to a wise friend, she advised me to flee. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Just block and run. So, I unfriended him on Facebook and unfollowed him on Twitter. I did not block him on Twitter until this week, because I thought that he’d realize I’d done those things and then…go away.

I was wrong. In response to a tweet of mine, he replied in a passive aggressive manner – letting me know that he was a) still reading my tweets and b) pissed that I’d broken ties. His tweet was full of venom, and I didn’t need it.

This morning, it occurred to me that, maybe, this has happened to other people. Specifically, it made me want to approach our common friends and ask if they’d had similar experiences. Because there’s something terribly isolating in not talking about it and keeping it to myself. There’s something this person said, in passing conversation, that made think that at least one other person may feel the way I do – and may have experienced something similar to me. And yet, I can’t quite seem to ask the question. Why?

Then, I realized: I’m afraid. I’m afraid to ask the question and not be believed. Isn’t that why we keep quiet about things we maybe shouldn’t? Fear is a funny thing. Not talking about something gives a situation too much power. And I’m not a fan of cowering to bullies. Which, I suppose, is why I’m writing this post.

Here’s the thing that needs to be said: if you tell someone he/she’s made you uncomfortable (once or habitually) and that person doesn’t immediately respond with an “I’m sorry” AND a change in behavior, run. Apologies are easy. They’re just words. But actions reveal things that words can keep hidden or, at least, shadowed. You don’t owe such a person ANYTHING – not even an explanation.

Between convention harassment and the whole Fake Geek Girls bullshit, being a female writer can be hard. So, I’ll make you an offer. If someone harasses you, or makes you feel uneasy, talk to me. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care how famous or in what position of authority that person resides. If you need someone to listen, I’ll listen. If you need help, I’ll help you. Because, after talking to another friend of mine this morning, I felt less alone. Moreover, I realized that I did the right thing.

I may not have much clout to do anything other than listen or make a little noise. I’m certainly not Neil Gaiman. But I can make sure that you are heard and do not feel alone. Because chances are, it’s not just you – and it’s not just me. Chances are this is a habit, not a fluke. It’s not a bad day; it’s a pattern.