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.
Within a certain realm, my mother could fix anything. A ripped seam. A tangled necklace. My unruly hair. And, on numerous occasions, me. There, her tools were a kind of magic that doesn’t fall easily into words. Often, it was simply a look different from any other and either a raised eyebrow or a simple question.
Then, she would listen. Sometimes, she would shake her head. Sometimes, she would tell me I was an idiot. Other times, still, she would rage at whomever or whatever had caused her baby girl a headache. Over the years, the list of offenders grew long, as lists do, but they’re all just ghosts in this story. What matters – what mattered – was the listening. The being present and invested in the kind of way that, maybe, only a mother can be – one who has seen and loved since the beginning.
Last year, I taught myself how to hem, so that I could remove the sleeves of a T-shirt that are too constricting to be anything but annoying. My stiches, though small, were uneven and somewhat veering. This, like all skills, is something that comes with time. Like a number of things, it’s something I’ve had to reacquaint myself with in the wake of my mother’s death.
It’s been nearly four years, and it hasn’t gotten any easier. People, well-meaning, will lie directly to your face with the shiniest kindness. They will say it gets better, but it doesn’t. It just gets different. It is, as best as I can tell, the emotional equivalent of losing a limb. Something essential that was there all your life is gone. And nothing can replace what’s missing. You just learn to live, to cope, without it.
One of the many things she taught me, though, was the importance of listening. Not just hearing the words and waiting to get your say in. But attending to the sentences and the feelings behind them, being present in that moment, and really communicating. So many people are simply there, but not there. So many people hear, but do not hear. You can blame all kinds of things for affecting the way we do, and do not, communicate: the internet, cellphones, texting. In a world where communication is often instant, words are sometimes consumed as fast food. And it really is all too easy to stop putting in the effort, to stop being fully present, and to stop paying attention to what’s being said – and, perhaps, what’s not being said. It takes effort, and in this everything-on-demand world, people have often grown lazy – careless with our attention and reckless with our inattention.
But I am, thanks to my mother, an excellent listener. I am a better listener than I am a talker, unless I trust you without hesitation. Or there’s tequila involved. Even then, I can still be guarded. Most people do not realize this. Most people are fooled by a wide smile and a well-timed joke. But that’s another thing my mom taught me: people see what they want to see. People believe what they want to believe. And like creating an amazing Halloween costume, it is the details that matter, that fill out the picture. (My mother, it should be noted, once handstitched a Batgirl costume for me, complete with utility belt. Unfortunately, this was the summer I first moved south, and the particular town we lived in didn’t trick-or-treat. That was only discovered after knocking on several houses and the occupants giving seven-year-old me quizzical looks, as if I was a strangely dressed beggar. All I succeeded in getting that evening was…an apple. I’m still mad.)
There is a long-running joke in my family that I cannot sew to save my life. As a kid, I was fascinating by sewing. I would often steal an old shirt of my father’s to practice on, stitching on a pocket (I don’t know why I thought a pocket would be cool; kids are weird). I am certain it never quite resembled a pocket at all. But I like the idea of patching up, of creating, of somehow taking something and making it better.
As you might already suspect, I get that from my mother. If she could fix it, she would. If she could make it better, she did. If she could help, she helped. And that is a gift she gave me that, perhaps until recently, I didn’t quite understand. I am not one to sit idly by when someone is hurting or having a hard time. I am not a sidelines person. I’m in the game. I jump in, full-hearted, arms open. I will always hug you. And I don’t know how to love in small measures, because love is not a small thing. It’s a miracle made of starlight and bone, blood and madness, skin and madness. She taught me, by example, that it is something you fight for, no matter what. And on days where I need reminding of that, on days where I need more strength that I can find within myself, I wear her opal ring (borrowing it only). Because it reminds me of everything she was, everything she went through and strove for, never letting life make her jaded and bitter. Never letting her doubt herself or her own heart, even when it would’ve been all too easy to.
I suppose, in a way, my mother is still working her magic. It isn’t just in the things she left behind or the skills she taught me. It’s the way in which she lives in my memory, woven like thread into each moment. She showed me how to listen, how to love, and how to take a stand.
I can’t hear her voice, anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still listening.
We live in a world that is constantly trying to keep us small. We’re supposed to be and do this. We’re supposed to like this, not that. We’re supposed to stay inside the lines, not rock the boat. Don’t be too weird. Don’t stick out too much.
We’re often told that to be a certain thing (woman, man, writer, father, husband, wife, etc.) that we must do x, y, and z. Otherwise, it’s wrong. Otherwise, you won’t fit in (whatever that means).
But I never wanted any of that. I never wanted to fit in. Good or bad, weird or not, I always just wanted to be me. I’m not saying that is always an easy thing. It’s not. I remember, in middle school, being criticized for the clothes I wore. I liked a shirt, so I wore it. A girl in class said to me, “Why do you dress like that? You should get some overalls, like [redacted].”
Yes, darlings, there was a point in time in which overalls were all the rage. And they were just…not my thing. I remember looking this girl in the eye and saying, “But I don’t like them. I like what I have on.” From that moment on, that girl hated me. Actively and with gusto. Why? Who knows. Kids are weird and often cruel.
But maybe it was because I wouldn’t conform. Maybe it was because I didn’t bend to her expectations. Maybe she was insecure. It doesn’t matter. All throughout life, people will insist with a crazed, righteous fervor that you need to be a predetermined way. That you need to present yourself within these lines and walk in these parameters.
Those people are wrong. Don’t let them in your head. And if they sneak in, kick them out. Because there’s only one you, and you’ve only got one life. Don’t spend it trying to please the world. Don’t spend it trying to be someone else. Or someone version of yourself. Dress up if you feel like it, but never to hide who you are.
Today, Prince died. A mad musical talent. A force a nature. A brilliant everything. Prince, a man who was once a symbol, never uttered a false note in his life—musically and personally. Whenever he went, there he was. Effortlessly cool, infinitely sexy, and remarkably wonderful. His talent is too far-reaching and brilliant to comprehend, sometimes. He pushed boundaries and made stunning art.
Like Bowie, he was one of those rare people who made it cool to be weird. There was a magic in his authenticity, in his quiet coolness. He was sexy, and he wrote about sex in a way that was appealing—and dirty as hell—but it was never offensive, never alarming. Each song was a seduction, and we were all very much here for it.
It takes courage to be who you are. Today, we lost a musician whose equal we may never see. But with his death, we also lost that symbol of fearlessness. Prince was the epitome of not giving a fuck. He was exactly who he was, and it was beneath him to even consider apologizing for it. He made art his way. He brought spectacle and dancing. He brought glitter. He lived his life on his terms, and the world bent around him in awe. There was no expecting him to tone it down or change.
He was simply Prince. Period. End of story. Full stop. And man, there’s something infinitely appealing, magical, and sexy about that. About a person whose Give a Damn is not broken, but absent.
It’s important, in this fast food society, to have remembers that it’s okay to be exactly who we are. Not just okay, but wonderful. And when someone like Prince (and Bowie) die, there’s an obvious loss. He won’t have a new song. We won’t get to see him in concert. Hell, we won’t get to make out with him. Or borrow his shoes.
And we lose the person we sometimes look to, who reminds us, “Just be yourself. Screw the world. Don’t pay any mind to what other people think.” It’s a hard loss, because of the way society strives to keep us small and reasonable.
But today, for me, a curious thing happened when I heard about Prince. Yes, I was shocked. I was sad. (I mean, he and Bowie always seemed so Other in the best way, immortal and untouchable.) But what I also felt was a curious sense of defiance. That rebel streak that crops up just often enough to remind me to be myself, even when people don’t always get it. Even when there’s side eye and whispers.
This surge of defiance caught me by surprise, because it was exceptionally fierce.
I am always myself, but sometimes quietly so. And you know what? No more of that. Quiet is for church and funerals, and since I’m not holy and I’m not dead, enough of that. I’ve always lived my life by my own compass, but what if that goes a step further? Live it out loud just a little more?
I don’t belong in a box. And I refuse to live in one. I’m a geek who curses. A lady who loves tequila and rum. A writer who thinks like a poet first, always. A woman who loves without question or concern. A friend who does not waver. A person so full of hope that it’s almost absurd.
But you’ll never catch me apologizing for who I am. So, do me a favor? Don’t you apologize for who you are, either. Don’t apologize for what you want in life. Don’t apologize for what you enjoy. (There is no guilty pleasure. Pleasure is pleasure. Enjoy it. This goes for all things.) Don’t apologize for who you love. Don’t apologize for loving, period. Don’t apologize for the way you dress, how loud you laugh, or talking about the things that you are passionate about.
Light up, darlings. No one else can stand where you’ve been, where you are, and where you will be. And you owe it to yourself to show yourself to the world, to be freely you.
Tomorrow, I will be wearing purple. It’s my favorite color. As a child, I claimed to be from the Planet Purple. While I can neither confirm nor deny that possibility, I choose to honor Prince. I choose to honor a man who could seduce the world without a word, in just a look. A man who played every instrument flawlessly, as if it was like breathing. A man who commanded every room he walked into just by being in it.
To quote my dear friend Heather: stay weird, be kind. ❤
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.
I don’t believe in coincidences. There’s too much that goes into a moment—too many factors—to pretend that something means nothing. It’s not random. It’s not happenstance. There are a handful of things, at the very least, that aligned, which results in a Thing Happening.
Yesterday, on my way home from work, I drove past—literally—someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, someone I have been thinking about. Someone who I miss, for a million reasons. The person was in the lane next to me, and there was this shock of recognition, as I leaned forward, “Is that…? It is.” But then, I drove through the intersection, and that was that.
This person isn’t someone I ordinarily run across. But things like this have happened in the past, in instances where it should’ve been impossible. Or, at the very least, highly unlikely. And yet. And still.
That happened. This small moment, literally at a crossroads. And it really got me thinking, more so than usual. Because so much has happened lately, and some of it isn’t mine to tell, but they’re the blindsiding moments that take your breath away. Sucker punches to the soul, the kind of things that make you stop, force you to stop and think about your life.
Are you doing what you want? Are you doing what you love? Are you with the person you love? Are you allowing yourself to be loved? Are you open to it? Are you open, period? (If the answer to any of these is “no,” then that’s something to think about.)
There are no guarantees. There is right now. And right now, whether or not we know or acknowledge it, we’re all at a crossroads. Every moment is a choice point. Every second is an opportunity. Seize it.
Because everyone has that person, right? That person you can’t stop thinking about. Maybe your reminders are less literal, less in-your-face than mine. But when it’s quiet, when the world stops demanding things of you, when it’s just you and your thoughts: what’s occupying them? Who’s occupying them? That thing your heart and your head on settle on?
Make the choice to bring it into your life. Because there’s just this moment, there’s only right now.
I’ve seen a lot of conversations centered around bravery, lately. Mostly, it’s people wondering how, exactly, to be brave – how to be strong enough to make a change or go after something. Incidentally, yesterday morning, I was grappling with that very thing – stuck in the very moment where you vacillate back and forth, wondering if you should do The Thing or Not. There’s a kind of pulse-shaking fear in that moment before you decide to do something. Adrenaline might be kicking around in your veins. That makes it hard, because that turns a choice into a fight or flight. You either do The Thing (fight) or you don’t (flight).
Usually, I go the route of Marilyn Monroe, say, “What the hell?” and do the thing. Because if there’s one piece of advice I’d want you to heed and carry with you, it’s this: Always do The Thing. Whatever you’re searching for the courage to do, whatever it is nagging at you or haunting you, do it. Go after it. What lights up your heart, who lights up your heart, don’t be held back by fear. Be brave. You will regret the things you let slip away, doomed to always wonder what might’ve been or what-if. That kind of regret is far more powerful than the kind that comes with things that don’t turn out exactly as you’d hoped. So, dear heart, do The Thing. And don’t look back.
So many of us put walls up, keeping ourselves theoretically safe, but also keeping ourselves from possibilities. There are moments in a conversation, sometimes, when you can hear that exact moment it happens – a question is asked, a consideration is raised – and, suddenly, there’s a wall. (In your heart. That no one can get through. *ahem* Song lyrics just spat themselves out of my brain. That’s a lovely song.) It’s as if the other person is holding up an emotional (or informational) stop sign. I suppose it’s most cases, it’s wise to respect that. But much to my detriment at times, I do not believe in walls for the sake of walls. I do not believe in keeping distance between myself and those I love. Ever. It’s usually a temporary structure, for one thing. A diversion. A false pretense. And, almost always, it isn’t constructive – such things hurt more than they help.
If you miss someone, tell them. If you want to see someone, see them. Stop saying no so often, and give yes a try. Yes opens doors. And no is a drowning word. And for god’s sake, if you love someone? Tell them. It doesn’t matter if nothing comes of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s half-insane or seemingly impossible. A person should know he/she is loved. There’s no more important truth to be told, if only to tell it. Saying that out loud is a powerful thing. And it always matters, even when it may not seem to. It always matters, even if nothing comes out of it. It’s not always about a happily ever after. It’s about the moment of knowing, of letting it out. It’s being that brave and that vulnerable. But you can’t do that – any of what I just said – if you’re hiding behind walls. Get rid of them. They do you no real good.
Do The Thing. Always, always do the thing. Your heart – your life – will be all the better for it.
“If you’re crazy, be crazy. If you’re broken, be broken.” ~Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Belladonna Bay
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin
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