Freedom

journalburn06_500wide

I sent you notes. Lovely little notes. You blushed. I did not think you would blush.

Your hand tucked the note to your inside jacket pocket and you smiled. Sheepish. Adorable.

Your hands outstretched, I came to you.

You were young, so you were a bit awkward. I didn’t care. Awkward was fine. But, I let little things that should have been red flags that you would be a life-long liar slip by like toy sailboats on a pond.

You always thought you knew more than me, and made sure I knew it. How did I not notice it then? How did I let it slip by, over and over and over? Toy sailboats.

I built up a tolerance.

We rode home in my old car–a hand-me-down from my parents. We talked for hours. I would eventually migrate to your lap, or we would end up on the curb, thighs touching, leaning warm onto each other.

You bought me flowers sometimes. I have photos for evidence, because you tried to make me believe it didn’t happen. You were a master at gaslighting, with the word “ridiculous” always at the ready to hack off another piece of my self-esteem.

You said you never loved me. But you did. You just can’t let her know that, because then she’d have to wonder if the little things you do now that make her feel loved will some day be magically disappeared by the very person who made her believe they existed. Like you did to me.

At least it doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s like recalling an old movie that you’ve seen dozens of times. Only you don’t really like the movie, and some people in the movie are saying you remember it wrong. I suppose we all take something to, and away, from things like that.

I remember when I was gutted. When it felt like I could never get to a place of indifference. And even if I did, it would be tragic.

It’s not tragic. It’s freeing.

 

What It Isn’t and Is

I want to preface this free-thought exercise by saying I’m totally fine. I’m not actually upset or struggling at the moment. I just channeled a lot of thoughts I’ve had over the past several years for different reasons – this isn’t about any one specific person or situation, it’s a composite of struggles and processes. It’s all of the good and “the upside down” (for you fellow Stranger Things fans!) that comes with just being human and forming (and trying to form), and unmaking, bonds with people. What those bonds are, and what they aren’t. Peace!

Minolta DSC

Loki (he’s been gone a few years now) and my old art studio, which I could no longer keep.

It isn’t a beginning.

It is an end.

It isn’t a big house.

It isn’t a favorite book.

It isn’t tenderness and validation.

When you have to move on, it can be grueling. It can feel like ash and stone flying through the atmosphere. Why is it like that, no matter how bad it gets?

I look back at what it was. What it wasn’t. What it is now. What it isn’t today.

It is the absence of respect.

It is the presence of resentment.

It is an angry woman who reads her husband’s emails and lashes out because she is insecure – because of the way she got her husband to begin with. It isn’t a woman who accepts blame.

It is loss that is far more good than the subtraction of love, but the addition of self-respect.

It isn’t caring what you destroy until you’ve already crushed it to bits.

Looking down. Dust on your boots. Blood. Ash. And you wonder why people don’t want to have a happy chat.

It’s creepy little threats.

It’s a smell you can’t forget.

It is blame, not in the mirror, but outwards – for your very own flaws.

It is a bad review out of spite to manifest your petty anger.

It is accusing people of the very things you are guilty of.

It is shedding your own skin likeĀ  a reptile, if you ever had your own skin to begin with.

And it is assuming the identity of a Stepford Wife. “Whatever you like, I now like.” As if you are hollow inside.

It is long distance.

It is cold hearted.

It is selfish beyond selfish, but ultimately the best thing ever.

It is banana bread and canned peaches.

It is lilacs and gold roses.

It is forgetting as the memories scatter into darker corners with each passing week…month…year.

It isn’t the acceptance of the role you play, because you are perfect. Remember? You never do anything wrong.

It’s the fault of people who you believe take advantage of you, not your falseness that made them believe that they were not trespassers. It is the people who didn’t know you were lying who are to blame, not the person who lied.

“Why don’t you trust me?” HA! THAT IS HILARIOUS! Oh, the resentment when I showed skepticism was rich!

It is rape of my trust. It is sliding into a booth and planting a kiss on me without my permission. It is the everlasting overlapping of lies and truth that made a nice veneer. Thin and brittle, but it looked so shiny, rich, solid on the face. Fake. False. Fake. False.

It is the hot resentment on the back of your neck when you walk by because you took what you wanted and I still rose up from the ash. Poorer and richer. Depends on how you look at wealth, I suppose.

It is vulnerability.

It is feeling like a failure.

It isn’t closure.

When you want closure, when it is never going to be given to you (can it actually be given, anyway?) you have to keep working to find it.

Closure doesn’t come suddenly one day and BAM! You’re all better.

No – closure is a process. It is a place you first must find the path towards. Then walk the path. Then knock on the door. Sometimes nobody opens the door because they don’t give a fuck about you. Sometimes you have to open the goddam door yourself. And once that door is open, you have to keep going there for school, you keep having to learn your way to it. It doesn’t just wash over you. You don’t get out of it that easy.

It isn’t anointing.

It isn’t wound-less.

It is bleeding. Then dressing. Then scars.

It’s a lack of understanding.

It’s bad bad communication.

It isn’t perfection.

It isn’t absolution.

It is new walls with each assault.

It is stronger bricks.

It is a higher wall.

It is letters never sent.

It is apologies never received.

It is lies that burn my flesh.

It is hurt that tears at my heart.

Or tore. Or burned. It’s all of them at once.

It is fire and water and metal and earth.

It is humanness.

It is forgivable.

It isn’t forgettable.

The forgiveness is for yourself, not for them.

 

 

 

 

The Choice You Make – Sensual Sunday

I don’t know if I would undo it if I could. Your shirts are here. And your toothbrush with the fancy nubby side. I actually folded socks today (not my specialty). They weren’t mine. That’s how you know I care.

When you lift your head and put your feet on the cold hard floor, I swoop in and grab your favorite pillow, hook my arm around it and pull it in tight. I watch your naked back bend forward, the valley of your spine is perfect and I reach out and run a finger down.

You wipe the sleep and look over your shoulder, peeking through a mop of messy hair.

“I wish you didn’t have to go.”

“Me too.”

It doesn’t matter who said which, because we trade off these sentences, depending on what day it is.

I don’t know what force on this earth got to decide what love is or how it manifests, but I know what it is for me. Love is in the Don McLean song that crackles out the same line every morning, “The auctioneer saaaaaaaaid, I’m not through yet…” from your alarm clock. Love is around the edges of your iris, where light brown gives way to hazel. Love is in scrambled eggs and toast next to the window, on a single plate with two forks.

“I like ketchup on mine, do you?”

And now, even after what happened, we’re still here and maybe a little less sorry about it than the two years that followed, because love can also be an opportunity to choose somebody every day. We keep making that choice. I can’t undo it, so I will take solace in this.

 

 

Summer 1981

IMG-20110716-00377

I miss waiting for “The Wizard of Oz” to come on once or twice a year. I miss the lead up to the end of the school year and the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster. I miss not understanding about bills and politics. I miss jump-rope and jacks and creeks with smooth stones. I miss that first kiss feeling, when you weren’t even sure how kissing worked. I miss grape soda and skinned knees, tire swings and climbing trees. I miss swimming all day for weeks in a row. I miss the coolness of a desert night, sitting in a concrete pipe with a friend talking about everything, after the rest of the neighborhood had gone to sleep.

The Heart Tapestry

knitheart.jpg

I don’t know what motivates other people to do things–or not to do them. Nor do I pretend to believe that all hearts work the same way. I’m not here to judge why or how somebody does or doesn’t respond to me. How somebody does or doesn’t connect to me. I put it out into the universe, and if a thread comes back and weaves into the tapestry of my life, it will be all the more rich and colorful. All the more complex and beautiful.

What I don’t really have time for at this point in my life are those who can’t be bothered to connect, or worse, pick at the tapestry, snagging, leaving tears and frayed ends. My life is full of wonderful, beautiful, talented, insightful, caring people. If I never made another friend for the rest of my life, many beautiful connections would remain and sustain me.

Why am I writing about this? I saw a Timehop that reminded me of this topic. I had had a couple of really big hurts in my life, starting with a teen pregnancy, but 2009-2011 were the worst by far. I was reminded of how hard it was to recover from that kind of damage. It reminded me how much I had turned in on myself – for almost three years. I decided I didn’t want or need any new friends. It felt to vulnerable to open up to that. I closed up. Put up a wall. That is something I had never done before. Sure, I had some short-term hurts that made me withdraw for a bit, but being an optimist at heart, I always bounced back pretty quickly. I felt the risk was worth the payoff of a connection and a friend – before.

For the new friendships I’ve formed–I’m glad I dismantled the wall a bit – brick by brick, leaving a small space for people who really wanted to squeeze through. For those who chose the other side of the wall, or who I walled out, our time has passed, I guess. For my part, I’ve always been as authentic as I could. And I trusted–until I couldn’t–for reasons.

I didn’t always respond or behave the way I wish I would have–but I’m human. I’ve hopefully learned and evolved over the time with each bump and boulder in my path. Whatever mistakes I made, you got me honestly, and my honesty, and the sincerest bits of my heart.

You Screamed

I had a nightmare two nights ago.

We went to a celebration, a wedding I think. We were in a house I didn’t recognize. Long wooden floors and wide breezeways. We were upstairs, you and I. People I knew, though none in this plane of existence, held glasses with wine and chatted. Some were in couples and others in clumps. Through the large doorway I could see a half-wall that was crowning a stairwell that led downstairs where others were also mingling. You left my side. I watched you walk away, thinking you were fragile from your health troubles. I tried not to worry and sipped my drink as I watched your back as you turned the corner out of my sight.

Then I heard it. You falling down the stairs, hard. I could hear you yelling in pain as you went down. Thud, holler, thud, holler. The crunchy sounds of bones cracking. The people around me were gone and it was just me, staring at the half-wall waiting for the sounds to stop. Knowing it was you, your body, doing a terrifying ballet down the steps. I tried to make my legs move. To go peer over the half-wall, but I was telling myself it wasn’t you. Then another series of thuds. I had this idea for some reason that a large cabinet tipped and went end over end down the stairs and landed on you. In fact I knew that was what had happened. The thing was gigantic and heavy. I heard it stop at the bottom, sounding as though it landed in wet cement, and you screamed. It was horrifying. You screamed high and frantic, a voice I’d never heard come out of you before, “Get it off of me! Get it off of me!” Your pain was palpable. You tried to scream more, but it came out in sickening gurgles. Then I knew I couldn’t go to the stairwell and peer over the half-wall. I knew it was going to be awful. I also had this odd effect of feeling as though if I didn’t look, it wouldn’t be true.

I woke up. It was 1:37am. In another lifetime I would have walked to the part of the house where you were in and checked on you. Or phoned you. Or at the very least, later, when things had really changed, emailed. Just to make sure you were indeed, not at the bottom of a strange stairwell in some giant house, your life seeping out of you.

I realized there was nowhere to put this feeling. No place to store it or let it go, so I drank some water and went to the restroom – life is full of these little cycles, isn’t it? Water. Pee. Cycles. Back to bed. I kept hearing the scream as if I had actually heard it in real life and was now having some kind of flashback. I lay there, tried to just tell myself it didn’t matter. The screams would fade. Sleep would find me. And it did, only to have several more nightmares, but none of them as awful as that first one.

I was tired the next day – yesterday. I kept having moments where the thought of the screams made my stomach sour. How could I find ways to not care? For it to not matter?

I remembered a huge part of why it is impossible to even have the smallest of exchanges. I remembered the irony of the anger of a person so concerned about their name, being in my correspondence, or in my mouth – a person who stole names. Squatted in them like a vagrant’s hovel. Pissing on things to mark them, then growling over the territory like a rabid coyote. Hypocrite. It makes it easier to let go of concern when you remember how little there is for you.

I again pushed aside the idea of checking on you. Each time I pushed the thought away, it was easier to look at from a distance. As the feeling would rise for a moment, then fall further away each time. I kept walking away from it. I kept imagining ways I could walk faster. Then I remembered that I’m a writer. So, here I am in the middle of the night – letting go.