mistakes by the lake

sit down. let me tell you a story about ohmygod what am I doing?

Heavy

Those things we can’t let go of; those physical things that carry emotional weight are the most annoying things to lug around, in my opinion. Maybe it’s a photo, maybe it’s drinking, maybe it’s an obsession, and maybe it’s a failure. Mine is a pile of bent wood. Nine years ago or so, I won a contest in art school, to design seating using bent plywood. I won, and a local furniture manufacturer produced a full scale prototype. The prototype is a set of four connected chairs, like for a waiting room or an airport. It’s a whole lot of wood. In my mind, at 24, this was the beginning of amazing things. I would get an amazing job with this design. Maybe I would sell the design and someone who produce thousands of these chairs. Either way, I was just getting started, and the future was going to be full of design and success and chairs and woodworking.  But then it wasn’t successful. I didn’t get a job in design in that 6 month window after school where you’re supposed to land a job before loan payments kick in.  I didn’t try to sell the chairs. I found a job that didn’t care that I had designed award winning bent wood seating. So I disassembled the chairs, and stacked up the wooden panels. And then 9 years went by, and that pile of deconstructed seating traveled with me. To Chicago, to the failed attempt at living out West, back to Chicago. Into the studio that I thought would be my last, before moving in with my boyfriend, and into the next studio in a new state when it wasn’t. Up and down flights of stairs, in an out of apartment doorways like cumbersome ghosts. It’s so heavy, this giant pile of beautifully bent fiber. It was forever a reminder that I had had a plan, and I had worked hard, and that plan failed. I felt sorry for myself. I felt guilty and angry about all of the student loans. I stopped wanting to tell people that I had gone to art school at all, because of that chair that went nowhere. There was this part of my life that I didn’t finish, and it felt like a waste. Memories were wrapped up in the layers of veneer, and they were trapped in epoxy. Each piece got heavier with each move.

Last month, I moved in with my boyfriend. We were taking the last carload over to his place when I remembered the wood. I had hidden it out of sight for the last year, safely in the attic. It’s hard to explain why handing 3×3 panels of smooth veneered plywood down the attic stairs made me cry.  I knew I had to explain it though, and I kind of needed to say it out loud, for me. As I spoke, I realized what literal baggage this wooden structure was. I had gone through so much purging and processing in the last couple of years, and this was one thing of which I could not let go. Mistakes, drinking, a failed engagement, and the attachment to the memories and sadness and guilt around it, had been released. This was too heavy, somehow. This chair project started as my first big success, and became my first real failure. What would happen if I just let it go? How would I let this go?

After listening to my mid-move emotional unfurling, my patient and practical partner simply said “you should get rid of them”. He was not suggesting that I throw them away. He suggested that I sell them. I could refinish them in our garage, order legs for them, and sell them. Or we could put them in the living room. Give one to a friend. There are four of these damn things, after all. It seemed too easy, but it made sense. They are chairs. They are supposed to be used for support, not self-abuse. I want them to be beautiful again. And then I want to send them on their way.

I don’t know where these chairs will go. I don’t know how I will feel about them once they’re put back together and refreshed. What I do know, even now, as I get excited at the idea of sanding them down and making them new, is that they won’t be as heavy when I’m done. They will be something I made in school, something that I poured myself into, something that I loved. The design didn’t become what I thought it would, but then again, neither did I. I made mistakes, and I made choices that came from my heart, and I’m here. Now I just need to get these chairs up to speed.

If they could read, I would write them this letter:

Dear Chairs,

I know that I promised you that we would go to amazing places. I know that the places we went weren’t part of the plan, but I never left you behind. You were my dreams, and I couldn’t let you go. I have new dreams now, and a respect for the unknown and unplanned. So, if you want to stay, you’re going to have to live in the present. You’re a 2008 design, but like any good piece of furniture, you feel timeless to me.

 

xox

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Sharing is (self)caring

Online or in person, I can feel a gauge working, measuring my comfort, before I open my mouth or share words and pictures. Like the things we share, the amount we share is also very personal. In the spirit of writing when I’m in the middle of something messy as opposed to writing about it when it’s all wrapped up and neat, I will tell you that I hate not being able to control what others think about me. Hate it. I know that’s not awesome, but I’m trying to show you my messy kitchen sink and dog hair covered floor in addition to my perfect homemade bread and jam.

A very small and sweet group of people read my blog. For a while it was just my mom. She sends me texts like “I just read your latest blog, honey. Are you ok?” and I appreciate it. I also appreciate her sending me typos. I found out recently that people from my past were reading. And people from my present who I don’t communicate with otherwise were reading. And then I started thinking: “Who else is reading this?” And of course the next thought was “What are they thinking of me?”

I started writing for me, and then I kept writing for other people who might need to read it. I quit drinking with the support of total strangers who were writing on the internet, so doing the same for someone else out there seemed like a good thing to do, while processing my own shit. I continue to use it to process my life, as a newly sober person who is trying on a lot of new stuff, like teaching yoga and being madly in love with a guy with kids, and working and having relationships and trying to like myself more. This new concept that people were reading and maybe not liking what they were reading made me feel super naked. Cue the wild thoughts, and the making my Instagram private and double checking my FB settings and wondering if I should just start a new secret blog.

I tried to hide. But that didn’t feel genuine. I want to share. It’s how I connect and process. So I had to rethink some things, and it’s still unsolved, like most stuff, but here’s what I keep reminding myself:

  1. My story is important. It is important to me, it is important to someone who needs to hear it. Other than that, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. This is a very strange concept to me, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. My yoga teacher and my very smart coworker both said this to me recently, and I feel it in my bones and the pit of my stomach a little more every day. So that means it’s true, friends.
  2. What I share is my choice. I do not need to share everything. It still happened. The whole story still happened, and if I want to share pieces of it, that’s fine. That’s not to say that only sharing the good, wholesome, cute parts feels genuine or acceptable for me. That’s why I tell you that I was a drunken lady who was sad and anxious and had horrible body image issues. That is why I tell you that I’m currently a person who is happy lots of days and anxious other days, and is trying to understand how to live with/around kids, and still has a frustrating relationship with my body.
    I don’t write all the details of every moment for a few reasons. One is that this is public and I have a very corporate job. That’s not cool or interesting, but it is the truth. Dog food and matcha lattes and housing don’t grow on trees, people. I gotta work. And I don’t want to share everything with coworkers who I don’t already have a connection or friendship. Another reason I don’t share everything all the time is that my boyfriend has kids who can read and use the internet. I am crazy about them and they challenge me and teach me things. I could talk about them for hours, and I would, but over coffee. Not here.  And as far as writing about drinking goes, I’m happy to tell them the truth, and I do. That doesn’t mean that they need every detail. I also don’t have the authority to ground them for judging me. Can you do that when they’re your own kids? Asking for a friend.
  3. Final reason: Self-care. Sharing is vulnerable. I have to keep that balance between give and take, share and hold back. I’m always pushing myself when I share, but I don’t need to push so hard that I feel unsafe.

There is a filter that is built in when I write, but it doesn’t mean it’s not the truth, and it doesn’t make it any less valid. But just know, and this is the important part, that even if there are details about my drinking days, or the world of dating someone with kids that I don’t expand on, I’m never lying. It’s always true and I want to connect. Believe me, it’s still hard to tell, and I always appreciate you for listening and telling me yours.

Final thought, sort of a question for us all: Can we share without feeling overexposed, while still remaining genuine? How do you do it? Asking for a friend.

10 things from a week named OPEN

This week, I felt like an exposed nerve and an empty bowl under a faucet and the theme could have been OPEN if I was going to name my week. Maybe next week will be named CLOSED, but either way is OK. We have seasons.

My friend Danielle makes the best lists and sells things I like over here. I am having that kind of week/season where I find it hard to organize my thoughts. So, here we are with a list. About the week. Written on a Sunday night, under a pile of pets and anxieties and joyful memories from the last 7 days. Here are some:

  1. I was social. And I tiptoed into it. And then I opened up. And I realized that it’s OK to hide when you need to hide. People will wait. They might even wait a little longer than you think they will. We all have seasons.
  2. I got up early. I did hard workouts that made me feel good and clean some days and exhausted and gross other days.
  3. I slept in. I felt manic and woke up wired and some days woke up zombie-tired.
  4. I learned that someone important from my past was sober and had been for almost as long as I had been. We exchanged a small handful of words about this, they were all peaceful, and I felt, for the first time really genuinely, that our past selves, the ones that loved each other and were intertwined so fiercely, and unkind to each other at times, were dead. I felt free. I was happy for our new selves.
  5. I spent a lot of time with kids and felt like maybe I didn’t want to have kids because holy shit they require so much energy.
  6. I spent a lot of time with kids and felt the weight of sadness over not having kids and feeling like I had majorly fucked up by not having them yet. I have these two conflicting feelings on a daily basis and this week was just more of each.
  7. I had hard conversations and felt really good about them one day and then felt awful about them the next . I doubt myself when I least expect it.
  8. I ate so much ice cream this week. I feel really good about that choice. It’s the end of July. This is like the holiday season of ice cream eating.
  9. I went out to my car tonight, to get my laundry, because I do my laundry at my boyfriend’s house. I was standing next to the car, getting ready to hike the basket up on my hip when I heard a scratching sound. I thought it was a cricket and I thought that maybe there was a cricket on this branch right by my head, resting on top of the car. And I stared at the branch. And I listened. And I realized that the noise was the light scratching of the leaf against the roof. A breeze would come, and lift it up for a moment, and then bring it back down to resume the uneven scratching noise. I felt the message “breathe, and just keep breathing when you feel too heavy” and that was perhaps god and perhaps not. And I don’t mind if that sounds nuts.
  10.  Sometimes editing is good and other times, it feels like starting to clean for your friends who are coming over and then saying “you know what my house looks like, fuck it” and putting the lint roller down. I’m glad that you’re reading about this season, and that you don’t mind the mess.

The shadow side to all this light

Starting out with an aside: In the most chill and non-obsessed way I would like to commit to writing every day and posting a thing I’ve written once a week. So there you have that. Let’s carry on.

I’ve always been a fan of telling stories. Today I’m wondering about the timing. As in, when do we feel like we “can” tell our story? The only story I’ve got is my own, so I’ll use that as an example here.

A story about quitting drinking. When did I feel like it was safe to talk about it? After I had quit, for sure. I’m just starting to feel OK about telling this story because it’s been a year since I made the move. My reasons to not tell the story are the same reasons I hate telling people that I don’t drink and are the same reasons I didn’t quit until I did:

  • I didn’t drink as much as other people drank
  • I never drank in the shower like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas
  • Nobody ever sat me down and told me, in a gravely serious tone, that I had a drinking problem
  • My therapist didn’t tell me to quit drinking
  • When I first quit drinking I would take sips of other people’s beer so it doesn’t count as sobriety
  • People will think I’m a gross weirdo
  • I never got a DUI or got arrested or had someone break up with me because of my drinking
  • This will make dating impossible
  • Nobody wants to hear this story
  • I don’t want this to be my story

Those reasons are basically all “this is not how it’s supposed to be” and that is a phrase I don’t use anymore. What is supposed to be what? I got engaged and felt lonely. I was the skinniest I’ve ever been and I felt empty. I fell in love and we didn’t go out to bars or spend days on end laying in bed because he has four kids and I don’t drink and guess what? It was still falling in love, but it didn’t look like it was supposed to, based on the stories I had going in my head.

I think that if we wait until it’s time to write a memoir, we’ve missed some of the good stuff, unless you’re sure to tell everything, even the not so glamorous stuff.

I needed people’s raw, in the thick of it stories. In the months leading up to finally quitting, I would sit at work, hungover and numb, and devour essays people had written about quitting drinking. I would read about their binges, I would read about their anxiety, and their tight chest alarm clocks at 4am. I would read it and rewrite a story in my head that was telling me that until I was a certain kind of alcoholic, I didn’t need to quit. I find this mindset that I had, this narrative that I should be able to drink, and that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t, to be so destructive. Slowly, I read one story after another, of women who were simply sick of feeling shitty. They were sick of being scared of what they had done and what they might do. And I heard this tiny voice inside myself saying “yes, me too”.

In some ways, writing this story feels like one I have to tell. It feels like I’m writing it to myself, but myself when I wasn’t ready to quit. The me that needed a story, about how it could be better. A story where you can fall in love even when you’re not drinking. A story where the girl goes to Paris, and walks through the streets, and feels the breeze, and doesn’t feel like she’s missing out because this story doesn’t include little bistro tables covered in glasses of rosé.

I’m learning new things about right now, but while I write about that, I need to write about the before, and the beginning of all of this. Before I forget. Before it feels like someone else’s story. Now is so bright, and so much better than I thought it would be, and I would talk about it all day if you asked. But, if you need the darker story, like I did, if you need the shadow side to all this light, then that’s the one I will gladly tell.

This being human is a guest house and mine is a mess (and it’s fine).

Things have fallen into place, compared to the way they have been for the last couple of years. Not the perfect place, but a place that is at least on the ground and not on fire. It’s a place I like. Some major wounds have closed up, and I don’t think too many germs were trapped inside, at least not enough to cause an infection. I’ve found this place that I didn’t know about. It’s a place I’ve landed that is on the other side of quitting drinking. It’s on the other side of thinking my body sucks. It’s on the other side of giving my time to the wrong people. So here I am, having removed some trash, to make space for good things. And there are so many good things. Letting go of crap really does make room for non-crap and it’s amazing and magical. In this new uncharted territory, where things feel new and fresh, imagine my disdain at running into a very unwelcome guest: My Own Shit. As it turns out My Own Shit is the stuff that quitting drinking and quitting calorie counting and trusting myself did not get rid of. In fact, in a terribly unfair manner, getting rid of that shit only uncovered My Own Shit. What kind of shit am I talking about? Super cute stuff, like insecurities and fear and jealousy. The stuff we hide, especially when everything else seems so damn nice.

When this stuff pops up, I feel very Fuck this shit! How dare you? How dare you come at me when I’m almost perfect? I’m finally good. I’m finally “good enough”. It’s crazy to me that I can forget, so easily that perfection isn’t a thing and that I’m enough. Even with the cute plaques on my desk, and the writing on the front of my journal and the mantras that I repeat on my yoga mat, that stuff is so damn hard to know, like really know, when you need it.

The interesting and dumb thing about clearing away crap is that the new things that take that space can be mirrors you don’t want to look into.  For example, I’m in yoga teacher training. I thought it was so cool that I was finally healthy and responsible enough to do something like that. Now that I’m in class, I’m learning that yoga is not about being skinny and wearing expensive pants, but instead about looking at all of your light and all of your dark. So, I get to look at the dark. That is not what I signed up for, and I hate it sometimes, but it’s mine and it’s real.

Other example: I have a really wonderful partner who loves me and treats me like I want to be treated. Guess what? That does not erase My Own Shit. I still feel blind rage behind my eyes when they mention a past relationship and do you know why? Because that is what I feel sometimes. That is a reaction I have. That is a trigger if you want to call it that, when I think about a life that didn’t include me, about attention I’ll never get to have, and all sorts of other things that make me feel dumb. These triggers feel like a box of those snapper things you throw on the sidewalk have been dropped at my feet. AGH! Where the hell? What just happened? Why do I feel threatened? Because this person might realize I’m nuts? And leave? Because I’m not good enough? Or something? Everything? Insecurity. Fear. IT’S. STILL. THERE. Which begs the question: What is the point of all of this self-inquiry and care if I’m just going to come back to this familiar pile of crap that I carry around? Can’t I let that go yet?

I think this is true: How you react to yourself and your shit is where you find your power and your peace. I reacted in frantic ways to clear space for myself and that’s ok. I made changes, and moves and decisions. I’m used to reacting in a kind of panicky way. I’m trying something different now, as I try to stay on this safe ground, where there is no fire and no reason to run.

The other night I felt insecure and lonely and the feelings just swooped in like a hawk out of nowhere. I don’t hide from it anymore, by drinking or doing other destructive things so all that was left was being present. Sitting there with this crap and being like “Oh hey, it’s you. You’re so annoying, but what do you really want? Why are you here right now?”– I’m trying that. It’s not fun, just to forewarn you. Drinking is way more fun. But last night, I had to have that conversation with My Own Shit, and look at it and roll my eyes, and find some truth behind it, and then go to bed. Today, when I woke up, I was not hungover. I didn’t feel guilty, or lost. The nice thing about My Own Shit is that I’m getting to know it, and so, when it pops up, I don’t feel like I need to hide from it. I would prefer that it disappear, but it’s possible to think of it without all the judgement. Maybe it’s just a teacher. Like, a really annoying teacher. Here’s what makes you jealous, Alexis. Here’s what makes you feel insecure. OH MY GOD GO AWAY was not a response that worked, so now I’m trying “Ugh, fine, come in. I’ll make coffee” because that is how you treat a guest. Welcoming someone in doesn’t always mean you love it, right? Or that you want them to stay for hours. I’m an inexperienced host here for sure, and don’t always react the way I want to when this shit creeps in. But I try to let it in, because I have space now, and it’s not as scary as it was, and it’s coming in anyway. Like Rumi writes, “this being human is a guest house, every day a new beginning…”. It’s exciting and hard all at once. All of this space, all of these rooms, safely planted on the ground, to fill with my own imperfection.

Things I did when I had a panic attack at work.

I am sitting at work and I can’t breathe and keep imagining smashing my laptop screen onto my desk. These are not feelings I like, words I want to share or thoughts I enjoy. I’m trying to observe them though, because mindfulness is a nice concept. It’s a challenge, because my inclination is to judge those feelings, and tell myself that healthy, sober, yogis-in-training do not want to scream at the top of their lungs at their cubicle walls because they feel raw and un-tethered. But here we are, friends.

You know that feeling when you see someone out of the corner of your eye and you jump, because you didn’t think anyone was there? That is how I feel sometimes when anxiety shows up. Where did you come from? You weren’t here, 5 minutes ago. Suddenly, I am certain that my body has forgotten to take inhales on its own.  So what do you do? Like, in that exact moment? Here’s what I’ve tried today:

  1. Tea. This resulted in a long conversation with a coworker who wanted to argue that herbal tea is not tea. Not today, man. Thankfully, I had thrown a bunch of chamomile tea in my bag last week. Thanks, last-week-me.

Did this help? Yes. Hot water is magic. I would prefer a bath, but will settle for tea.

  1. A scone. I’m trying a new thing. I’m all about quitting stuff (I’ll write all about uCalorie counting may be fine for some people, but for people like me, who cling to things that they can control, it isn’t great. When I’m stressed, I don’t eat. Being healthy is fine, while basing your self-worth on your caloric intake is not. Eating food is good and nourishing your body is good. Equating constant low-level hunger with a positive body image is, what’s the term? Fucked up? Yeah. That’s the one. So, after weeks of planning and doubting, I stopped counting. I’m trying this whole new thing where I just trust myself and eat when I’m hungry. It makes me feel extra vulnerable, like I’m riding on top of a helicopter, hanging onto whatever piece of helicopter sticks out and could serve as a handle. So I tried eating because I felt like I might need a scone.

Verdict: Yeah, I needed a scone.

  1. Breathing. Here’s what I just learned about breathing exercises: Sometimes they don’t work after 1, 2 or 5 minutes. There are special times (i.e. real freakouts) when you have to keep doing it, focusing on your breath, riding that anxiety out. Patience isn’t exactly easy in these moments, but maybe I can keep that in mind for next time.

Verdit: Yes. But it was annoying because it didn’t work right away. Just being honest.

  1. Writing. Oh, well this helped. I feel antsy still, but I feel like I can get back to work, and get through the day. Maybe I’ll try this first, the next time.

That’s all I’ve got.

xo

 

PS: The new Run the Jewels album, a touch too loud, in my headphones also helps.

Ride the wave, trash queen.

I just fell down an entire set of stairs, carrying a trash bag full of cat shit and old fridge garbage. After assuring my neighbors that yes, that sound was just my body, and my body is fine, I went upstairs and aggressively performed a ritual. I threw on the tea pot. I said some swears. I cranked the faucet on in the bathtub, swore again when the shower turned on instead, and chucked Epsom salt at the scalding water. I stomped into my freezing cold closet, and pulled soft clothes out of a pile of soft clothes. The self-care, it was there. It was waiting. Self-care is magic on good days. It feels like getting dragged to church on bad days.

I am going to tell you that I’ve been very happy lately, which is hard for me, because I’m a human and we are strange about admitting that stuff is good. I got over this hump with quitting drinking (that is a thing that happened, maybe 6ish months ago) where things were fun again, and I didn’t feel like a boring weirdy pants. I’m doing things I want to do. I met new magical people. I got a kitten. I learned to sew. In some ways, all of the good stuff came from taking care of myself. Like I said, self-care feels amazing on good days.

Today, however, was a crappy day.

I felt anxious about work stuff, battling that feeling that I’m fooling everyone into thinking I can do the things I say I can. I felt generally scared of fucking up all the good things I’ve found. I got mad at my dog for eating cat food again (which makes her barf at 4am, always, always, always on the rug) and I slapped her in the face. Like, super light slap, but she did this squinty thing with her eyes and my heart broke. I fought with the insurance lady on the phone about a bill.  I went to yoga. And it was good. And I was calm. And then I came home, and I fell down the damn stairs.

Is it possible, that the self-care, and the patience with ourselves is for these bad times specifically? Practicing it is good, all the time, on the good days, when a hot bath and tea sound lovely. But it’s different when you need it to save you.  It’s not there to shut you up. Like, I had a bad day, and doing yoga and writing about gratitude does not need to change that. For me, knowing how to take care of myself, to soothe myself like a cranky baby, keeps my chest from hurting. It keeps me breathing. It keeps me doing most of the stuff that I know keeps me sane, like not drinking and allowing myself to eat Hershey’s kisses for dinner if I need to, and going to yoga and taking long walks with my dog, unless it’s 11 degrees out, like it is now. In that case, it means not taking her on a long walk, and instead, hugging her too tight and apologizing repeatedly for the slapping.  I don’t need to be happy all the time. I just need to be able to be alone with myself and feel like we’re not in a fight.

As I sit here, bruised from the fall and pruned from excessive bath time, I feel that I don’t have a choice but to ride this wave. Not a wave as in surfing down the stairs like a crazy trash queen. Wave as in, the ups and downs. Self-care your damn face off. It’s not selfish. Figure out what makes you feel sane and practice that. Like a musical instrument. Practice. Don’t stop when you’re happy. Don’t’ stop when you’re sad. Just do it, so that when you’re not ready, and you fall, your mind will kick in and take care of you. Or at least it will know enough to draw a bath and pour tea into your mouth until you surrender.

xo

Work in progress: I see islands

If you are wondering what this work in progress business is all about, take a peek at my last post, where I give a little explanation. Then come back here, ok? xo

I see islands when I close my eyes and when I am waking up, like a secret message, one that I can barely hear. We’re our own little islands, little ecosystems, but we send out boats, to gather and deliver, and see what discoveries have been made. My small island is floating, through water, behind my eyes, as I begin to anchor it back to the shore we share, to anchor myself back to a shared safe place. Some days I don’t want to leave the island. Some days I do.

We’re our own little islands, small land masses, bumping into each other’s shores. Sometimes we come very close, so we appear to have formed a new continent.

This image, of islands, helps me to understand who I am without my body.

Sometimes there is a log jam of islands, and we love that or we hate it, and we push off, and away, to find some quiet. On my island, I’m floating out at sea, bumping into the other islands some days. I’m setting sail for your island to drink coffee where the water meets your shore, because I’m hungry for more than my own thoughts and words. Some days what I need is to hear someone else’s breath. The smell of another human and a “yes, I know what you mean” from their lips is a piece of magic, is a whole wrapped gift. That smell and those words can feel like home, a place where I want to live, or at least rest for a while.

I suspect that the more I love my own island, the more I can love yours. There’s enough to go around, I’m learning. The more time I want to spend on this island, sitting in the grass, and staring out to sea and wondering and remembering, the more strength I have to listen when I set sail again, when I’m sitting on your shore. The more energy I have when we’re all bumping up against each other’s island, when we’re sending our boats out, when we’re discovering how far we can sail away and still find our way back.

If it looks like your island is on fire, and you’re throwing everything into the water, including yourself, I want to be able to see you, and I want you to feel seen. I’ve been there, and I know a distress sign when I see one. I would send a boat out, just in case. You don’t need to jump in, especially if you have more burning bits to chuck into the sea. Sometimes we need to let it all burn down, to clean off the island. Maybe we go to the edge for a bit, while the interior forests smolder and the beasts who call this island home, nurse their wounds. Even if I can’t put the fire out, maybe you can see that, in this moment, I have mine contained to just one candle. I keep it at the center of my kitchen table, so that I can see, and remember fires I’ve had.

These fires and these small islands, they look different from person to person, and they change. I close my eyes and feel safe, like my island is wrapping up around me. I love this body of mine, I really do, but sometimes it needs to be still, and I need to escape to my island, to check the fires, pet the beasts, to ready myself, for you and for me.

Work in progress: A poem I wrote while I was waking up

I love to look at pictures of other people’s artistic process, or creation process. Messy studios, a whiteboard covered in ideas, a rough sketch before it’s turned into a painting– yes please. The pencil marks that you see when you get close to a painting just feel so honest. With that in mind, I’m trying something this week, and I hope you’ll keep reading and watching.
As I wrote yesterday, with no purpose other than getting my thoughts out of my mind, I made a total mess. Super messy first draft. So much may get deleted, or changed, or expanded on. I don’t know yet. Instead of doing that work in private, and then presenting you with the finished piece, I’m going to treat it a bit more like an open studio. Every day, I’ll post the piece just as it is, wherever I’ve gotten in the editing process. Please leave comments Tell me what you think, or what you like or what you want to hear more about. While my writing is my own, I love the idea of it being more of conversation between me and the people reading. So, it’s Day One, and this is my unedited, straight from the source, run-on sentence laden post, that is not sure if it wants to be a poem or prose, for you.


I wrote a poem in my dream, and recited it to myself, as I was waking up. I wish I could remember it.

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Listening to what your body and mind need requires a little more quieting down of the other sounds. Don’t fight the seasons. When you see people, tell them you are happy to be seeing them if you’ve missed them.  I need to stop apologizing for needing to be alone so often.

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I went to the farmer’s market, and felt guilty for spending money on flowers because they’re just for me. I remembered, almost instantly, that the flowers were as important as the fruit. Fed my eyes, fed my body, because I was hungry.

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The world feels so noisy. I don’t need to listen to everyone who wants to tell me about myself. I don’t need everyone’s input. This is not a group project, but I am asking for help. This is not a team effort, but I do need support. We’re our own little islands, little ecosystems, but we send out boats, to gather and deliver, and see what discoveries you have made, and to share ours. To give you art and to bring yours back home. This small island is floating, it is floating through my mind when I am waking up, as I begin to anchor it back to the shore we share, to anchor myself back to a shared safe place. Some days I don’t want to leave the island. Some days I do.

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I’ve been thinking about what control means, and why it isn’t necessarily bad to want. I don’t want to control you, and I don’t want you to control me. I want to control what I can. There are things I can’t control, and that’s fine. Sometimes, when I don’t know how to move forward in some area of my life, I control little things, like the way the furniture is arranged, or the way the cups sit in the cupboard. I don’t have a person who tries to control my life, or if I do, I don’t know who they are, and they’re not doing a very good job. I feel the ways that society is trying to control me though, and it reminds me to keep sharing that with others. It’s like a light I need to keep on. I keep the light on in the lighthouse, to help the other islands make their way, to see what they’re doing over there.

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I have to keep things quiet to be able to pick out the noises that I need to hear. When I’m mad, it’s too loud, and I need to walk away, or at least look away, look inside, duck inside, for a moment. I need to take a look around, to see the pieces, to hear the voices, and to decide if and when I need to react. Do I need to pick up my anchor, do I need to move? Do I need to stay, do I need to call my mom, do I need to run around the block, do I need to hug my dog, do I need to be held, do I need to be sleeping. Do I have a need, or can I sit still and wait. I need people to listen to me, and I need people who want me to listen to them.

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 On my island, floating out at sea, bumping into the other islands some days, setting sail for your island to drink coffee where the water meets your shore, because we need more than our thoughts and words. Some days what I need is to hear someone else’s breath. The smell of another human and a “yes, I know what you mean” from their lips is a piece of magic, is a whole wrapped gift. Watching someone else smile at something you’re smiling at too, is the place where I want to live, or at least have a house. The deeper in love I fall with my own island, the deeper in love I fall with others. I always forget that love is not finite, and because you have some for someone else, it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough for me. The more I love myself, the more I have for everyone else. The more time I want to spend on this island, sitting in the garden, and writing and taking a nap because the sun is perfect against the bed right now, the more strength I have to listen when I set sail again, when I’m sitting on your shore. The more energy I have when we’re all bumping up against each other’s island, when we’re sending our boats out, when we’re discovering how far we can sail away and still find our way back. If it looks like your island is on fire, and you’re throwing everything into the water, including yourself, I want to be able to see you, and I want you to feel seen. Even if I can’t put the fire out, maybe you can see that I have my fire contained to just one candle, that I keep at the center of my kitchen table, and it would give you hope.

A case for quiet

I am not a natural at things that involve physical grace or balance. I practiced shoulder stands almost every day last summer just because I wanted to know what it felt like to hold myself upside down. It feels really good, by the way. Perhaps I was too enthusiastic about my balancing skills the other day when I fell out of a headstand and landed in a crunchy, awkward way. For the last 3 days, I have been icing and heating and whining a moderate amount. It hurts constantly, unless I remain completely still. Walking around like a robot has been annoying, but it did bring up some thoughts on stillness and listening that I’ve been noticing.

I recently found a picture from four summers ago. It was of my sister and I and my dog, hot, sweaty, maybe drunk, definitely giggling, on the porch of my studio apartment in Chicago. We lived together that summer. I feel like I was usually kind of dirty and sandy. I hated my job. I was desperately fighting for the attention of people who didn’t deserve it. I drank more than I could handle. I smoked more cigarettes than I wanted to. I had more than one instance of crying under streetlights with lovers who weren’t ready. I was a lover who wasn’t ready. I was a friend who wasn’t present. When I looked at that picture, I kind of missed how alive I felt then. That photo looked like it was pulsating. The things that matter are still true—I will still always want to be in a sweaty giggle pile on the floor with my sister and my dog. However, I don’t feel more alive when I’m fighting to be seen by people who can’t see me. I don’t feel more alive when I’m drunk and fighting under street lights. I do feel more alive when I feel balance. I had to think about it, because losing that level of energy can honestly feel like a loss of life. Like, oh, I am growing up and therefore life will never been as amazing as it was when I was a bunch of exploding fireworks, feeling everything to the extreme. I would argue that being still and listening more can make you feel just as alive.

I feel like I was fighting myself for the last 18 months or so, kicking and screaming through the transitions that I chose. Lately, I feel like I’m just watching the pieces falling around me. Like little pieces of paper, from some explosion, are blowing around, sunlight shining through. It’s a quiet place. It’s not scary, even though I have no idea what’s coming. I would go so far as to say this part feels like magic.  This is just the part where I listen. I can be gentle with myself here, but not because I feel fragile. Slow movements can be a way to take care. These are quiet realizations. I let my head slide under the water in the bathtub and realize that I’ve just let something go. I’m walking up a hill, and there’s a breeze, and I let something go. These are the quietest realizations that I always expected would be more dramatic. They do not make me burst into tears, or scream, or decide I need to pack up my things and move out of the state. Like that summer three years ago, I feel like there’s a lit pack of sparklers in my chest, but it no longer feels like an emergency. Just like, I lit these, and they’re beautiful, and it’s fine. There is nothing to scream about. Nothing is on fire. This is not an emergency. This is grace and balance, and it just slipped in the door when I wasn’t looking.

xo