This has been a crazy year. There were good, bad, and bananas things. To say that I’ve learned a lot is an understatement. Because, honestly, if I’m not learning – I’m doing life wrong. Because life is about trying. It’s about making mistakes. It’s about putting yourself out there, in whatever fashion that might be. Making art, for instance. Trying a new hobby. Saying I love you. Traveling somewhere all by yourself. Meeting people.
To me, that’s the important thing about life: living it. Being present. Finding, stealing, and savoring moments. There are three things I couldn’t live without: love, laughter, and coffee. Let’s face it: no one wants to be around a non-caffeinated me. It’s not pretty. But, to me, those are such vital things. Without love, I’d cease to exist. I am nothing without my idiotic, somewhat spastic, completely willful heart. A sense of humor, too, is a must; there have been things, over the years, that I would not have gotten through, if it weren’t for a sense of humor. I’m not going to list them. You don’t need to hear my scars. Suffice to say, finding humor in the dark parts will help pull you through.
But I feel like I need to say thank you, here (feel free to skip this, if you’re easily bored or pressed for time). To my family and friends, who love and put up with me (even when I’m crazy…which is a lot). To anyone who has ever read something I’ve written – and even liked it! To everyone whose life I’ve been lucky as hell to be a part of, who has touched my life in unexpected, but beautiful ways. To the mad ones, who light up life like stars in the blue-black night sky. To my people, my lost witches, my Gilmore twin, my partners in crime, my Wonder Twin, my darling gypsy witch, and my best friend. To the agents who have blogged, tweeted, and generally been awesome. To my fellow writers and editors who live in this ocean made of words.
It has been a year, darlings. There are moments I wouldn’t trade for the world. Although it has been an especially crazy few days, I’m grateful. I keep thinking about this time, last year, where I was and what I was doing. What was I feeling? Like I’d lost everything and nothing would be the same again. I was reeling in a soul-deep, earthquake way. Since then, I’ve seen, been, done, and loved a lot. I’ve been true to myself. I’ve tried new things. I’ve been open, honest, daring, and probably a wee bit bonkers. I’m proud of everything I’ve learned over the past year.
I hope that 2014 is filled with so much joy, laughter, magic, art, adventure, wonder, love, and honesty. May you face all your shadows bravely. May you always remember you’re not alone. May you kiss someone with reckless abandon, someone who adores and cherishes you. May you make good changes. May you walk right out of your comfort zone and discover new things about yourself. May you laugh until your face hurts. I wish, for you, unexpected blessings, strength, and resolve.
In 2014, be good (and true) to yourself. Believe. Allow yourself to hope and dream, then act on those things. Wish and want, and then do everything within your power to attain those desired things.
For all of you who are in my heart, whether or not I’ve said it lately – I love you. Carry that with you in the new year. Tonight, I’ll be raising a glass to you and making wishes of my own.
*Title pilfered from the incomparable Neil Gaiman.
this happiness is wet; it tastes
like wine, like a kiss
pressed into a prayer, two bodies
like a church, home
and hope in every corner,
in every curve, all the moments
in an hour, singing.
this happiness is slick, it is
rain greeting a rooftop, the way
a look begs for understanding,
and how understanding sleeps
within every brave moment,
full with purpose, quietly
asking to be known.
this happiness is quiet, secret,
a leaf just beginning to turn,
humble as a thunderbolt,
it separates what it must, a touch
that stays long after a hand is gone,
fears bursting into flame.
this happiness is a rebellion,
and there, in a stolen beam of sun,
it began; it is always beginning;
it is always what it is,
perfect with its imperfections,
freckled with desire, fingers
on a trigger, heart like a flood.
this happiness is two hands
and an afternoon, forgetting the door
in favor of an open window,
it is untying knots while shaking,
going through, rather than around,
and running into deep waters;
this is love let out of its birdcage,
your ribcage, flying wild –
flying. Yes, that.
this happiness is wet
as a kiss – a surprise, an inspired gasp
beneath a lover’s hand.
this is why we came.
this is why we come.
this is, itself, a reason.
This big world is a strange, small place. And I believe in its infinite, sometimes insane, possibilities. A few weeks back, my dear friend Alicia was moving to California. She ended up trapped in a snowstorm. The roads were closed. She had to seek shelter. She ended up meeting an author, Sara J. Henry, who was (and, I suppose, is) on a book tour. They got to talking, and it turns out that Sara reads my blog (hi, Sara!). Alicia mentioned that she knew me, and Sara gave her a copy of her novel to send me. (I got it, and I’m looking forward to reading it.)
What are the odds, though? Small, I’m guessing, especially considering the randomness of the journey, the moving from one coast to another. The sheer, bizarre happenstance that is life. I have to say: I love it. I love knowing that connections can be made in the strangest of ways and places. I love that talking to strangers is sometimes okay. I love the moment of reaching out. I love the idea of being seen. I love the way things often change in the ordinary, unexpected instant.
This morning, I found my claddagh ring. It was a gift from my mother (it’s bad luck to buy one for yourself), and it stemmed out of my love for Buffy. I haven’t been able to find the ring for over six months. I’d been looking furiously for it for the past month or so. It should’ve been in a small box, on my bookshelf. Another ring was there, but it was not. I searched everywhere. I moved furniture. I reorganized my dresser. I dumped out drawers. I lamented to friends about the lost ring. The symbolism surely did not escape me; it’s a ring of relationships. It’s friendship, loyalty, and love. I wanted to wear it. I couldn’t find it. It was weighing on me.
Then, today, in the same drawer I’d emptied TWICE – I found my ring. It was tarnished, but no worse for its mysterious walkabout. I cleaned it up, and I put it on. I know that I checked that drawer. I know that I took out every single item. And yet, defying logic and perhaps reason, there it was – right in front. Right on top.
People say that when you stop looking for things – especially love – it shows up. I think that’s a load of bollocks, because you can’t find love with your eyes closed. Sometimes, love is just where it is. There’s no explaining it. You may have sought it out a hundred times, but it wasn’t right. It was hidden in plain sight. And then one day, you open a door or a drawer, and there it is. A little beat up, a little misshapen – and most likely, surprising. I certainly didn’t expect to rediscover my ring, today. But I did. With so much of life just around the corner, this feels like a sign. It feels like the beginning of spring, of possibility. Yesterday, I was scared about things I do not know, things I can’t possible find out. This made me realize how much we miss, if we aren’t paying attention. Sometimes, seeking and looking is the wrong thing. Sometimes, we just have to wait and see what comes to us – and to be mindful. That is the key to life, often times: being present. Being real. Living the moment, instead of sitting there with your questions.
Like my friend Alicia, you don’t know who you might know. You don’t know what connections you might make. You don’t know how small and magical the world really is – unless you are in it. Unless you do the unusual, or even the impossible. Relationships are formed in the oddest of ways, sometimes. We cannot account for that. Neither can we account for what might be returned to us.
Friendship. Love. Loyalty.
What is more important than those things? It is from those qualities that many, if not all, great things begin. Once they exist, they may fade sometimes; they do not ever disappear. Just like matter cannot be created or destroyed – neither can the intersection of those three traits. Truthfully, these three things cannot exist, if they are not linked together. Friendship without love rings hollow. Love without loyalty is a farce. And perhaps worst of all, loyalty without love. There is nothing honorable about that.
This big world is a strange, small place. But it is also full of magic and wonder. It’s full of promise. You never know who you might meet. You never know what you might find. And you never know what you might gain, unless you open something.
Pull open the door. Pick up the phone. Put yourself out there. Otherwise, you will be the thing tarnished in a drawer, hidden.
“What’s the world’s greatest lie?… It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.” ― Paulo Coelho
Asking is an art form. It is a vulnerable thing. It is putting yourself out there and trusting. Emotional crowd surfacing. Emotional skydiving. You’re taking a risk – a big one – and assuming that someone or something will save you from the fall. And it’s beautiful in its potential. It’s faith in the purest form. It’s allowing yourself to open up, without net or expectation.
In Amanda Palmer’s TEDtalk, she brings up the relationship between artist and fan. It is really very thought-provoking, and it made reconsider a lot of things about the making, and distributing, of art. It isn’t about asking people to pay for something. It’s about letting them. Watch it. I’ll wait.
She had a stellar success with her amazing kickstarter album Theatre is Evil. As a backer, I’m a little biased, because the whole process was amazing to watch. The music is wonderful. But here is what happened: she asked her fans to kick in what they could, offered tiered rewards in exchange, and then pretty much shattered expectations and kicked total ass. The CD, and everything else related to it, would not have been what it is – if it had been traditionally funded. If it had a genesis other than what it was. Just as people are, in part, the sum of our past and experiences, art is as well. From the kickstarter – and her tremendously intimate fan connections, she made good art. (Shout-out to Mr. Amanda Palmer and his make good art speech.). If you haven’t listened to the music, with the stellar new recording of The Bed Song, go. Go right now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. LISTEN. And if you only listen to one song, let it be the aforementioned one. Get tissues first. Trust me. The video is stunning, and it’s right below this paragraph.
I want to connect the idea of asking, as the Divine Ms. Palmer posited, to the Bed Song. Both things shed tremendous light on the importance of communication, of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, of connecting with each other. When we stop being vulnerable, when we stop taking emotional risks, when we stop trying – everything stagnates. We, as people, get stuck. We get stuck in a situation. We start drinking resentment in our morning coffee. We stop all possibilities, all potential. We stop living and start existing.
To me, there’s nothing sadder than a lack of emotional intimacy. Yes, being vulnerable in any capacity is a risk. A big one. But it is a risk worth taking, because it is through vulnerability that we grow and gain. A simple question, like asking how are you? and really listening to the answer – it can change everything. Relationships, all relationships, are work. Some days are harder than others. But the quickest way to kill any relationship isn’t a lack of sex: it’s lack of talking. It’s a dearth of dialogue. Even in small ways, like asking how your day was – or if anything interesting happened. Tell a story. Talk about a book or a song. Just…talk.
And yet, so often, we don’t. We get stuck. We get scared. We clam up. We disappear. And then, after a time, we’re so lost that we can’t even find ourselves. And we give into the routine. We act the part. We pretend it’s all okay, when it isn’t, simply because we’ve convinced ourselves that we have to. This is how things are. This is how they will be. There’s no changing it.
But that’s a lie we tell our reflections when we’re terrified. The truth is that there are a million ways to change everything. Change almost always starts with a single question. Things like, what do you want? Are you okay? How can I help? What’s going on?
There are always reasons why we build up walls, slather on armor, and stay silent. But there are also so many reasons not to. Because when you stop talking, things start dying. Little by little. Perhaps in such small ways that you hardly even notice. Trust me, though: the damage always spreads. Silence (if prolonged and habitual) is a cancer. It ravages trust and intimacy, making it harder to try. It is a closeness, full-stop. A period, instead of an ellipsis. It cuts off potential.
You have nothing, and yet have everything. The connection between two people cannot be measured in possessions, or time spent together, or in any kind of quantity-based idea. Instead, I think it’s measured in honest words, mistakes and bad days, vulnerability in its rawest form, laughter and tears, and love. The kind of love that comes without strings or agenda. The kind that allows for asking the difficult questions, even if you choke on your words a little. The kind that allows us to be ugly when we feel ugly, instead of idea of perfection or beauty.
“I would’ve held you, if only you let me.” That lyric in Amanda’s song gets me every time. You never really know, unless you ask. You cannot know, if you don’t ask. If you don’t strip off everything and run into the middle of traffic, offering yourself. You do not know if someone wants to be a part of your life, unless you take that risk and talk about it. You can’t know anything, unless you are vulnerable. And yes, it takes courage. It takes a measure of insanity, sometimes. But exposing yourself and being honest? It’s the only way to be true to [whatever – your art, your heart, your life].
When I ask the difficult questions, it is never pretty. I’m not comfortable with it. My hands shake. My voice shakes. My heart tries to gnaw its way through my ribs like a rabid dog. It is horrifying. And yet, it is also satisfying. Because it’s the only way to learn, to know, to grow, and to be. It’s the only way to keep yourself from getting stuck in the same spot, for years. Because before you know it, all the blooms have fallen off the trees; seasons have come and gone. Moments have flown past. And the only thing that is horribly the same is you.
After watching The Art of Asking, I was floored by one simple, yet superb, concept: that people often want to give us what we need – if we only ask. If we are brave enough to form the words, there is potential. If we don’t ask, there is nothing. And yes, in asking, we are placing ourselves in a vulnerable position – but that is a small price to pay for possibility.
We need to talk to each other more. We need to stop walling ourselves up and sticking to thing that we know do not work, that we know benefit no one and nothing. Don’t be afraid of losing everything, because you said the wrong thing. Be afraid of losing everything, because you said nothing.
There is true beauty in vulnerability. It is how we discover who we are. It is the only way to love each other. It is the only way to create something, even if that something is difficult or not easily obtained. Life, when you boil it down, is emotional busking. Someone sees you. You see them. They give you something. You offer them something. Eye contact. Intimacy. Human-shaped art.
It changes everything.
To be accommodating is such a small, simple thing. It’s all too easy to get caught up in what we want, or need, or think something should be. It’s much harder to put someone else’s needs before your own, but that is, interestingly, what love is. Plain and simple. (That’s not to imply that anything about love is EVER simple. If it is, it’s probably not love. But I digress…) That’s caring about someone else.
I forget, sometimes, that not everyone is like that. I forget that what seems like such a small thing to me – may indeed be a big thing to someone else. Because so often, people forget to be kind. And it really matters. It can make the difference between a bad day and a good one, a fight and a discussion, and a stalemate and a compromise.
The funny (almost contrary) thing is that I love plans. I love knowing things. There are times where being flexible does not come naturally to me (do NOT say what you are thinking; that is not what I was referring to, you dirty birds). I know why this is. I like the security of knowing that x, y, and z is going to occur. I like knowing how to plan my day. I like to remove doubt. (The psychology of this can probably be traced back to my childhood.) Sometimes, I like to be able to look forward to a Thing. But being flexible is important. The truth is that when I venture outside of my comfort zone for someone/something else, it is always deliberate. It is never an accident or a mistake. It is always a choice. Even if it seems hasty, it isn’t. It’s something I’ve worked on and am still working on. And I suspect will forever be working on. That, though, matters – working on something. Trying to improve.
But improvement isn’t the point of this post. It’s that it costs nothing to be kind. It is a small gesture, a tiny offering, a little thing. And yet, it’s so much more than that. There are days where I forget that. There are days where I am stuck on things in my own head. My own wants, desires, and thoughts about how something [life, love, relationships, moments, opportunities] should be. But that is selfish and possibly very stupid. It is also unwise. Because no one is an island. And life can be complicated, sometimes in the very best way.
The little things matter. Especially to me. Grand gestures are, well, grand. But I don’t need someone to show up with a suit of armor, wielding a bouquet, to impress me. Someone once made my day by bringing me muffins. He probably won’t remember that, but I do. It mattered. It matters. It will always matter. Because those little things are what set us apart from everything else.
When I was in second grade, I told a couple of friends a joke I’d heard. It had a curse word in it. It was a BIG deal in my world. I wasn’t going to tell them, since I’d only known that gaggle of girls a short while, but I did. They asked again and again. So, I caved in, and I trusted them. I told the joke (which, by the way, I still remember).
One of the girls, whose name is etched upon my mind, promptly went and told the teacher. Mrs. Disapproving Face sauntered over, gave me the Look of Shame – and told me if I told another joke like that, she’d tell my parents. I nodded. She left. Looking at Judas, I felt an odd mixture of anger and grief. Here was a girl I *thought* I could trust, and she shat all over my fine judgment. Or, as it turned out, not so fine. Needless to say, I did not trust her again, because once broken in so deft a way, it is hard to put your faith BACK into a person.
Learning who to trust, who to trust partially, and who not to trust at all – it is a lifelong pursuit, shaded by mistakes and unfortunate instances where hindsight is twenty-twenty. There are times where I still trust the wrong people, but the instances are rarer than when I was seven or eight – and I thought the world was made of rainbows, goodness, and CareBear hugs.
I’ll be honest: I love that moment in a relationship (any relationship) where you suddenly realize, “Holy shit, that other person really trusts me. And I trust them. And…this is so good.” Because there is something heartwarming and wonderful about realizing that, about knowing it down to your marrow. In a world where we are constantly reminded that people can be shitty just for the hell of it, really trusting someone – and being trusted in return – is a kind of everyday magic. It’s the kind of thing that makes me happy, that makes me smile and sing.
Trust is a kind of love. It’s a leap of faith. It’s a small bit of brilliance, unasked for. Trust, of course, is earned. Most of the time, it happens slowly. You don’t meet someone for the first time, shake their hand, and say, “Hey! Want to hear about the time I [insert deep, dark secret here]?” Because…no. That’d be crazier than a barrel full of rabid monkeys wearing tutus and sword fighting with bananas.
People trust at different speeds, with varying degrees, based on a indiscernible combination of personal fears and worthiness. You don’t trust the mail person with your feelings, just like you don’t offer a man named Buffalo Bill a bottle of lotion and a basket: it wouldn’t make sense. And it could end poorly.
Every day, I strive to be the most trustworthy person I can be. Then once I know I’ve earned your trust, I work very hard to keep it. It’s not like a prize you stick on the shelf and forget about. It’s something you cherish and respect. It’s nothing short of an honor. Because once someone trusts you, they have faith in who you are as a person – that they will listen without judgment and protect the things you tell them. I can count, on one hand, the number of people I trust, completely. The people I call up when I am sad, having a bad day, or I have absolutely good news that I cannot wait to share. The people who I know will love me, even if I’m being a total idiot – or maybe BECAUSE I’m being a total idiot. The people who can listen to my thoughts, feelings, and mistakes…and it doesn’t alter how they see me.
No one is perfect. No one. I’m not. You’re not. Perfection is a myth that someone stitched out of stars and bullshit. I don’t want to be judged by my bad days or my mistakes. I don’t want to be weighed only by those painfully squicky moments – so, why would I judge anyone else by them? (Rhetorical question, folks.) If we go into any relationship with the moon in our eyes, assuming that no one leaves the seat up, farts, says the occasionally stupid thing, or wears sweatpants around the house (not heels and pearls!) – then reality has fled, and things are based on impossible fantasy. Personally, in any relationship, I do not want perfection. I want the messy moments. I want the arguments, the bad days, the confessions, the confidences, the unvarnished truths, and the comfort in secret-sharing. It is easy to handle the good days, because they’re GOOD. But it’s how you handle the uncomfortable moments, the difficult times, and the ugly truths that matter the most.
I remember the first time I realized that I completely trusted my best friend. In a moment of total panic, I confessed something to her and asked her advice. It was the kind of thing that you don’t TELL anyone. And I told her. Not only did she still love me anyway (unless these 15 years have all been a LIE. Hehe), but she gave me advice. She still does She sees me face-deep in Kleenx, wearing bleached out yoga pants, hair wild and twelve feet high – and she loves me anyway. I ask her for the MOST AWKWARD favor EVER, and she doesn’t hesitate. The reverse is also true. She has my back. I have her back. End of story.
But, again: I love that feeling when you realize someone totally trusts you, and you trust them. It makes me want to hug unicorns. It makes me want to burst into song. (I do that a lot. I’m a human Disney character. Not kidding. “There goes the baker with his tray like always…”) People reveal themselves to be trustworthy, and the best way to be trusted is to show trust yourself. It is a thing of courage. It is something that makes the world a little better, a little brighter. And a brighter world is a wonderful place of possibility. J.M. Barrie once wrote, “All you need is trust and a little bit of pixie dust.” And I couldn’t agree more. This is the ordinary magic of life that leads to extraordinary things.
“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.”― E.E. Cummings
“It is not true that women cannot keep secrets. Where they love, they can be trusted to death and beyond, against all sense and reason.” – Mary Stewart, The Hollow Hills
The other day, someone made an observation about me that I scoffed at. I believe my eloquent response was, “What? Naaaah.” Later, I thought about it and realized: it was accurate. Then, I sat down and thought about the reason behind it. And you know, I was grateful. Not many people are that kind of honest. Not many people see us as we are (warts and all), and fewer still talk about those flaws.
Here’s the thing: I talk a lot sometimes. Not to everyone. Not indiscriminately. Granted, I can be a clown sometimes – I like to make people laugh. But when I start to let the walls down, ask your advice, and babble about silly things? Well, it means that I like you AND I trust you. In short: it’s a big deal. Because I can count on one hand the number of people who I let in like that.
Part of a good, healthy relationship is forgetting the kittens and rainbows – and being real. Being real isn’t always pretty. Sometimes, it’s messy. Sometimes, it’s morning breath and bad hair. Sometimes, it’s forgetting to take the trash out or saying something stupid (mmm, my foot does NOT taste good). Sometimes, it’s “What am I doing?” or “I feel so much that I can’t breathe.” Being real means telling the truth, even if it isn’t sugarcoated and covered in glitter. There is, of course, a difference between being helpful and honest – and being critical and mean. HUGE difference. Annnnnway….
I appreciate those moments, those things I might not notice about myself, because you can only see your own reflection so clearly. I like to learn. I like to figure out the reasons and the root cause when I can. I love to know what makes other people tick, but it’s nice to understand why *I* do the things I do. Or say the things I say.
The truth is that very few people are brave enough to be that honest. Whenever someone is, it’s like gold. And I cherish it. Because it’s these things that make us BETTER people. It’s those moments that keep us honest.
So, I want to ask you: when’s the last time this happened to you? Has someone made an observation about you that you found enlightening? What was it?