Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Reflections

On New Year's Eve of 2012, I received an email from a friend. I was feeling unsocial, uncomfortable in my own skin, and anxious. Her message ended up becoming a mantra of sorts for my year: Wishing you Poetry and Stars.
And, looking back on the year I had in 2013, it was filled with poetry and stars, just not in the way I expected.
One thing I tried to do in 2013 was to write. And I did, almost daily. I kept a running tab, wrote entries filled with whatever I was thinking about that day. Some months I wrote every day, and other months I wrote only a few times per week. But looking back on those entries, on the music I listened to in 2013, on the mementos I kept pinned to my wall and on shelves in containers, I get to see how far I've come in the last year, how I've changed, how I've grown.
This is my sentimental reflection on 2013, a goodbye echoing out as I ready myself for a new hello.

January
January began with hope, the desire to be better. It began with metaphors and stories and wishful thinking, the way January usually begins. I thought a lot about redemption, about the meaning of home, and struggled with finding peace within myself.
January was a month filled with hope and the promise of new beginnings. I was blissfully happy, learning to find myself in the world.

February
February began with thoughts of love and the transformation into a lion hearted girl. I was still wistful, happy in a way I couldn't quite understand. By the final day in February, my world began to crack. I didn't know then it was in preparation for the break that would upend my life.

March
March was grief, and brokenness. It was falling to the floor screaming and standing beside a grave with no explanation, only anguish. It was everything I didn't know how to understand, and everything I never wanted to have to learn. It was discovering the meaning of strength, daily. It was a time when my heart was broken, shattered into a million pieces I didn't know how to fix.

April
Looking back, I barely remember April. The days seem to run together, one moment fading into the next, none of them feeling real. I was still broken. I craved darkness, silence, solitude. I was restless, and angry. I tried to write through my pain, most of the words leaving my body bereft, inconsolable, and fierce. I watched too much television in an attempt to ignore the world that miraculously kept turning in despite of my brokenness.

May
May felt like another round of bad luck, like the blackness had swallowed me whole. The wound I had been trying to heal in April felt split open again, and I was bleeding all over the floor. I cried more in the first part of May then I remember doing before: in a parking lot, on the kitchen floor, in a doctor's office where suddenly the roles were reversed, and too often, in my own bed, crying myself to sleep. I held onto hope like if I curled my fingers around it tight enough, then it couldn't be broken. I went inward, taking stock of my life, bracing myself for the pieces of my world that kept falling in.

June
June was for rituals, for clinging to ceremonies. I was desperately searching for a way to be full again. I did a lot of yoga, ate well, and searched for people who were bravely walking through brokenness. Words weren't as easy to come by, and if I sat in the silence for too long I started to feel the voices in my head begin to take over. I chased sanity as if it was something I could grab, locking my fingers around it and holding it tight.

July
The discomfort I felt inside my own body grew heavier. I slept in hotel rooms and thought about death, and life, and living. My body felt broken, my mind felt broken, my heart felt broken. As many strings as I pulled, hoping to hold my life together, it kept unraveling. I felt like a stranger in my own skin. I had a restless mind and a restless heart, and I didn't know how to sit with myself and not run away from the pain, in some way or another.

August
August was for lusting after life, trying to swallow it whole. I tried stupid things and not so stupid things and did what made me happy. Maybe it was covering some deeper issue I still had, maybe it was well done denial, but I felt alive for the first time in months. I felt like the world was begging to be noticed and I vowed to take advantage of every moment.

September
September welcomed new things. It began with a desire to be brave, to experience life, and ended in quiet reflection. I was introduced to a world that challenged me, intrigued me and mystified me (and still does.) It was my first introduction to some amazing people. I wrestled with myself, asking a lot of questions, some that didn't have answers.

October
The broken heart was analyzed as more losses fell, reminding me of the grief that had draped itself over my life. It was death, and letting go. It was also welcoming new life, stretching to make room to accommodate it all. It was driving down back roads and listening to loud music and falling in and out of love daily.

November
November was for fiction, for distractions. It was poetry in dark closets and too many hours spent staring at the wall. It was the month when I turned another year older, which was both exciting and something I dreaded in the same moment. I was stuck in my head too much, as I always am. The world felt like it was moving too fast for me to keep up. I felt helpless to stop the spinning of my own mind. It was also a month of gathering stories, memorizing faces, collecting moments.

December
December was the apology I never knew how to write. It was days upon days lived in a perpetual state of fear, of panic, of grief. It was losing my mind slowly. I didn't try to understand it all. I went through the motions. I didn't write, didn't let my mind run away with the endless possibilities that were churning inside of my skull. I didn't let the brokenness of the month, and of all the months that have come before it, catch up with me.

2013 was a year of firsts, a year of being completely broken open. As a whole it was probably filled with more tears than any other year, more grief, more moments I didn't know how to comprehend. I told my secrets to the stars and wrote poetry on the side of coffee cups and crawled my way up out of the grief.
I'm coming out of 2013 not at all the same person who walked into it. I've been forever changed by the things that happened this year. I questioned my whole life, and am on a quest for answers. I cried, screamed, felt and wrote my way through this year. Because sometimes that's the only way you can do it.
I carry more anger now, am more jaded, more scarred. The world doesn't make sense to me anymore, not in the way it used to.
But, despite all the grief I carry with me from this past year, it was also full of good things. I felt the world inside of myself, and started (As I always am) making peace with it. While I lost people, I also met some amazing people, people who make me laugh and fill me with hope and encourage me to be a better person, to "write with blood" and to experience life. I had moments when I felt truly alive. I fell in love with people, with things, with the world despite it's brokenness.

"You'll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe in better things"

"Sometimes its the smallest things that save us: the weather growing cold, a child's smile, and a cup of excellent coffee."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Sometimes Emotions Are Wrapped Up In Music'

This year I kept a playlist all year long, adding to it songs that meant a lot to me through out the year. Looking back, it's something I'm glad I did. There are so many emotions frozen in music and it's good for me to look back over that playlist, and to over some of the writing I did early on in the year, and reflect back on everything that happened.
Tonight is filled with nostalgia, as Christmas always is for me. I took the opportunity to go through my 2013 playlist, and I thought I'd share it. This was my year, in music.

Begin Again - Taylor Swift
The Call - Regina Spektor
Braille - Regina Spektor
Moments - One Direction
It's Time - Imagine Dragons
Would It Matter - Skillet
Goodnight Moon - Go Radio
Iris - GooGoo dolls
Fix You - Coldplay
Ghost - Ingrid Michaelson
A Bird's Song - Ingrid Michaelson
Wherever - Kim Haller
Who I Am - Jessica Andrews
Worn - Tenth Avenue North
When A Heart Breaks - Ben Rector
Wild Horses - Natasha Bedingfield
A Thousand Years - Christina Perri
We Both Know - Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw
Say - John Mayer
Roots Before Branches - Room For Two
You Have More Friends Than You Know - Glee
Everybody Hurts - R.E.M
Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
Paper Doll - John Mayer
Roar - Katy Perry
Young and Beautiful - Lana Del Rey
Reno - Alex Woodard
Breathe (2a.m.) - Anna Nalick
Comeback Kid (That's my dog) - Brett Dennen
Cold Coffee - Ed Sheeran
Here's To The Good Times - Florida Georgia Line
The Struggle - Grizfolk
Wanted - Hunter Hayes
Wildfire - John Mayer
I Still Miss You - Keith Anderson
Blown Away - Carrie Underwood
Taking Chances - Celine Dion
Stupid Boy - Keith Urban
Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
Payphone - Maroon 5
More Like Her - Miranda Lambert
Far Away - Nickelback
She's 22 - Norah Jones
Story Of My Life - One Direction
Sober - Pink
Playing God - Paramore
Manhattan - Sara Bareilles
Gone To Soon - Simple Plan
Untitled - Simple Plan
Jetlag - Simple Plan
Lucy - Skillet
Purple Sun - Samuel Larsen
State of Grace - Taylor Swift
22 - Taylor Swift
Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
Colder Weather - Zac Brown Band
Love The Way You Lie - Rihanna
Jar Of Hearts - Christina Perri
Elastic Heart - Sia
We Remain - Christina Aguilera
Come Home - One Republic
Saving Amy - Brantley Gilbert
Underneath The Stars - Kate Rusby

Maybe you would learn more about me by getting a list of the books I've read in 2013, or a list of things and people I've written about. But I think there's something to be said for the music that I've related to most over this year. Music that's happy, and heartbreaking. Music that's full of emotion and music that is fun.
Goodnight Moon reminds me of my friend, who stayed up with me into the wee hours of the morning, and then sent me this song. Jessica Andrews reminds me of my childhood, and the people I spent it with, and the time we requested that song on the radio and then sat around the tape player waiting for it to come on so we could record it. Natasha Bedingfield is for those nights when I just wanted to cry, and John Mayer is passing my driving test and lazy Sunday afternoons. Brett Dennen and Grizfolk are the concert that I'll never forget, and Carrie Underwood and Celine Dion are for the concert tickets I got for my sixteenth birthday. Pink was how I felt in July, and Rihanna was how I felt in February. There are songs about heartbreak, about losing people I thought I'd love forever, and for the people who could have loved me better, and the people I could have loved better. There's playlists for loss, and death, because saying goodbye is never as easy as it sounds. There's songs about dreaming and songs about surviving and songs about the state of my heart on any given Tuesday.
I think a lot of emotions can get wrapped up in music. And for me, that happened a lot this year.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peace, Be Still

This week I've been restless.
I ended up in a busy hospital, once again being reminded of this fight that I'm in.
For days I tossed and turned, in physical and emotional pain, repeating to myself over and over that this shouldn't be my life.
But it was and it is the life I was given and as thoughts raced through my mind of all the things I should get done and all the things I should be doing I realized something.
I've been lacking peace.
I read an article about something called guilt away. It's an article I keep coming back to because I tend to have this issue with guilt.
I also tend to be pretty hard on myself, somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to having everything in a neat little row. I thrive on stress and chaos but I have to be able to manage the stress and chaos.
So last night I was lying in bed thinking about all the school work I'm missing and how I should have been back out there a few days ago pushing myself and how if I really tried I would be fine. (If you couldn't tell, the voices in my head are pretty critical. I'm working on that.)
And I realized that I, in no way, need to feel guilty, about anything. The world will keep turning without me being involved in every little part of it. Teachers will be gracious and friends will understand and the work will still be there when I return. What am I feeling guilty about?
I felt guilty for a really long time. I still feel guilty a lot of the time. And I'm tired of it.
So this morning I was going through that eternally long list of things in my head that I should be doing and I was nudged to check out this blog.
I was feeling pretty restless, pretty anxious, wound up, and the video I watched was on peace.
Peace, be still.
Everything sort of fell into place and I felt myself breathe.
This, life, isn't about anxiety or guilt. And yet I've been stuck in that place.
I've been stuck in a place of anxiety, of trying to micromanage the world and control things, and I forgot about the peace I am promised.
A peace that passes all understanding.
I am quick to forget. I am quick to get caught up in the hamster wheel in my head that spins madly.
I question and I struggle and I fight against that when I finally let peace wrap itself around me like a blanket it feels like an exhale.
This is where I belong. Not in a place of anxiety and control, but in one of rest, one where I can sink back into the provision, the comfort, the promise.
Peace
I am here for a reason. Here, in this place, in this situation, for such a time as this. And when I get wrapped up in where I think I should be, what I think is wrong, not feeling good enough, I am robbing myself of peace. I fall back into what I know: anxiety, fear, guilt.
How long will it take until peace becomes a habit? Until in every moment I can find that golden glimmer of peace that I am promised, the one that feels like an exhale and whispers to me Be still.
Be still, for when life feels hard and trying there is always hope
Be still, for when you do not understand there is a peace that passes all understanding that will cover you
Be still, for in the dark seasons of your heart there is this tiny green shoot called joy stemming from the barrenness, waiting to be noticed in every moment
Be still, for when you feel anxious and tied up in knots, lacking in understanding, there comes love to gently remind you of the truth.
Peace is what is promised to me. It is what transforms the slave into a free man. It is the whisper to my heart in this season.
Peace, Be still. Be still and Know.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This is not a love story

I've never been good at writing love stories.
Mostly because I don't know how to be in love.
I've done it before. I've loved. Some may say I love too much. I love passionately and quickly and fiercely and with the awkward clumsiness of a newborn foal.
I love until it hurts too much and the feelings threaten to crack my heart wide open.
I love until I feel like a fish beneath frozen ice.
See, it's all poetry and stars and breathtaking moments. Until it isn't.
I love like a lightning storm.
So no, I've never been good at writing love stories because I never can finish them.
I have this folder on my desktop for unfinished love stories.
It's about how every time I'm lonely, or nostalgic, I send letters to poets I've never met because maybe their words feel like a supernova exploding in their veins too.
It's about how I fall in love with moments, bits and pieces of people. Her eyes, the way he looked when he held her hand, the way he smelled.
It's about the little bird who has built a nest inside of the cage composed of my ribs and sometimes I can feel him, fluttering. His wings beat against my bone and I know he wants to get out and taste sunshine as badly as I do.
Its about how I am not a girl who is easily loved.
I've been told that before.
I'm a mosaic of broken glass, jagged edges and rough sides. I feel too much and I love too much and I carry stories that don't belong to me inside of my body because I don't know how not to.
I collect moments. I drink my coffee black.
I tried it with cream once and it tasted too easy, too simple.
I am always pulling at my nails and I can never manage to keep my room clean and I write on sticky notes and find them in places I'd never expect and chances are if I know you I'll probably fall in love with you.
At least part of you.
I'll love you until the supernova explodes and its too much work to pick up the broken pieces and I have this fear of getting hurt that makes me tread carefully, treating relationships like land mines.
Maybe I wasn't made for staying.
Maybe there's always been this part of me that's meant for leaving.
Maybe there's always been this part of me that never knew how to write a love story.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stealing Stories and Making Memories

i. I've always had a thing for Saturdays. Staying in bed watching the sun creep into my room, taking naps in the middle of the day, creating and turning in with my journal and a good book and listening to One Direction while I cook lunch.
Before I took for granted how beautiful a day is when it comes to you without any expectations. And now, while my life is full of amazing, good things, I've been quite taken by these hours that seem to fold in on one another. I've started a little love affair with Saturdays, and I couldn't be happier.

ii. On my birthday, I had a moment of panic. A moment of wanting to just stay in bed and forget that this was what day it was. Where I could blissfully ignore the calendar. I was afraid because I didn't know how to be seventeen. I was another year older, another year farther away from everything that had happened during the past year, which felt like a good thing but also made me nostalgic. And throughout the day, I kept making these mental notes. What it felt like to sit at breakfast, surrounded by family. What it felt like to look at my relationships. What it felt like to get my nose pierced, what it felt like to drink a latte while wandering around the mall, what it felt like to buy the dress. And at night, when I emptied all of what I felt onto a page, I felt full. I was leaking over, bursting with all of what I couldn't hold.
Is this what it felt like to be seventeen?
I still don't know what it feels like. I think I'm a combination of every age I've ever been and every person I've ever loved and every place I've ever gone to. I don't think there is one way to feel a certain thing. And I'm excited to figure it out, to keep collecting memories until I'm full and then empty myself out, starting all over again.

iii. I've taken to stealing things. Bit and pieces of people's stories, taking tiny fragments of something they said or did or how they moved or what someone else said or did to them. I've taken to storing them all, stealing moments that belong to other people and creating something. I think I should wear a pin on my shirt, one that warns all oncoming people that I might just write about them someday. The way he looked at me in that one moment, or the way she walked down the hallway, or the way she closed the door and stood in the closet, taking a deep breath before walking away. And I'll never know what these moments mean to other people, but I do know what they mean to me, and that's why I write about them. That's why I turn them into a song or into poetry or into a scene in a story. That's why I doodle it on the side of my math homework or pull out my guitar or throw things around in the kitchen. Because I have to put it somewhere.
See, I collect these moments.
As much as I don't like talking to new people, I love eye contact. I love the thrill I get in my chest when my eyes lock with someone else. For a minute, it feels like a collision.
Yesterday I made eye contact with someone, and I found myself thinking about that brief second for the rest of the day. Something about the look in his eye moved me, and I couldn't put my finger on what it was.
I think that when you look someone in the eye, for a split second you're inside of their world and they're inside of you. It's this exchange, only for a second. It's one of the most powerful things I've ever felt, the honesty in people's eyes for that first second when you make that connection. Its enough for me to write pages and pages, filling up notebooks.
I wonder what people see in that brief second of honesty when they look in my eyes.
So I take the honesty I see in the world, the words other people say that make me feel something, and I close my eyes, putting myself in that moment. I put myself in a story that doesn't quite belong to me, and I make something out of it. I make it mine.
And I think that's why I feel so heavy sometimes, so full. Because I collect these moments, these brief glimpses of a universe that doesn't belong to me, and I hold them. And I remember them and I make them mine. And carrying around all those stories is hard sometimes, but its what I love.
I love that honesty, I love that eye contact, I love the vulnerability that happens without saying a word. That's the kind of language I speak on a daily basis. The language of stories, the language of the heart.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In Five Years Time

It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart
I know what day it is...
Because at night I forget to sleep.
Every year, like clockwork, more than any other night of the year, on November twenty fourth I lie awake, tossing and turning.
Inside the cells of my body, somewhere, I imagine is the memory of it all. Folded up nice and neat like origami and pressed into the corner. And every year on this day, more than any other day, it is unraveled like strands of DNA that are pulled apart in order to separate.
It was five years ago today...
Even though the immediate danger is gone, the sting still lingers. Absentmindedly I reach for the scar on my neck, the one I relate with confusion.
Because five years later and I still don't understand.
I don't understand how things were fine, until they weren't.
I don't understand everything I went through in those days when I was fighting for my life.
And I don't understand why I'm still here.
...
My dreams are haunted now by the things I've seen, the things I've experienced. I remember very few days when I've awoken feeling like I actually slept, when I haven't been restless or awoken in the night paralyzed with the fear of something I can't remember, or something I can.
I guess that's true of every battle, that when you come out of it it's not without a price.
...
It's a one of a kind feeling to have someone you've never met stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people and say "This song is for a special girl," and then sing a song for you while all those hundreds of people cheer and scream your name.
It feels something like being a rock star.
Thanks to two very amazing bands, I got to know what that felt like.
It's an amazing feeling, one I'm sure I won't soon forget. One that wrapped around me like a blanket and whispered in my ear, "It's ok, now. You're ok. You're here, and this, all that you don't understand, it matters."
It's someone you've never met telling you "I'm in your corner. We're supporting you, every step of the way."
It's stitching the cuts in your soul with guitar strings and piano keys.
...
I don't think you can walk away from something like this unscathed. It changes you. Everything I've been through has changed me. The pain, the death, the unknown, the fear, the people you feel like you should have been able to save, the survivor's guilt, the smells and the sounds. It's changed me. all of it. It's made me stronger, yes, and more compassionate, but its also made it harder to sleep. It's made me freeze in hallways and duck into bathroom stalls to gain composure again because there was this one sound...
It changes the way you see the world, the way you see yourself and your life. It changes everything.
...
I'll tell them how I survive it. I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious. But there are much worse games to play.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Closet (Living life well)

I sat this morning, cross legged on the floor, and listened to the story of a woman who has cancer.
Hearing her story, it felt like Vietnam and I was a vet. I knew that pain, I'd experienced the wondering when your life is going to end and if this disease is going to kill you and fighting to get better.
I'm in a different place now then I was a year ago. I'm back at school, I'm doing well, I'm stable, I have a life. And yet I'm still not better.
At school and in my now so called normal life very few people know about what I've been through. I don't talk about the medical side of things very much. Partly because I'm in a different place now than I was and partly because it's not relevant to where I am now and partly because for me it's a very personal thing. I'm doing well now but there's still that side of it that is still so raw and fresh.
I'm stable now and able to do so many things but there's not a day when I don't feel something and wonder if I'm getting sick again. There's not a day when I'm not scared that I'm going to lose everything I have right now. I'm walking the line between sick and better. I'm not sick anymore, not like I used to be, but I never will be better.
And this is my life now, finding a way to live and live fully with a chronic illness. Not letting the fear and the what if's rule my life.
Of course I'm still afraid. Of course it's still hard and overwhelming and exhausting and I break down because I don't want to live like this anymore.
I can feel the fatigue in my bones from the trying to be normal and balance my sick life and my normal life and trying to find what works best in terms of me feeling the best and how far I can push things without it getting awful.
I watched a TED talk recently by a woman who was talking about coming out of the closet. She said the closet was anything that was a hard conversation, something you kept hidden.
For me, that life I used to live, that's my closet. It's easier to not talk about it. Easier for me and probably easier for other people. It's easy to pretend that that's not who I am, that being sick isn't still this huge part of who I am. But it is. It has forever changed who I am.
So I think for me part of this new stage of life includes accepting that part of me while making room for the new part of me. I'm still that girl I was a year ago but I'm also someone new. My body is healing, my soul is healing, my heart is healing.
I had this thought that until I got the report that my conditions were cured, there would always be a part of me that was broken. I was living my life in fear of 'what if I get sick again' and I feel like I'm living this double life and it's exhausting. Until I was cured entirely, I believed that part of me was broken. Maybe I still feel like that some days.
But part of this journey is realizing that while I will never be cured, I am well. While I may never be healed, I am healing. Compared to where I was a year ago, I have made amazing progress.
That doesn't mean I'm not afraid. That doesn't mean it's not hard and I'm not exhausted. I still live my life by the clock. I still have to be very in tune with my body all the time. I'm still sick.
But I'm not broken.
I am struggling, but I am whole. I am cracking but it is only because I am growing.
I heard a quote this morning about things in life serving a purpose and then being done. And I feel like that part of my life where I was so sick, it served a purpose. And now I am moving on to this new chapter of my life. I am continually growing and changing. And just because I am shedding layers it doesn't mean I am no longer whole, it just means I am growing new skin, becoming a butterfly instead of a caterpillar.
One of the hardest things for me now has been balancing my 'two lives' and living fully with a chronic illness and not letting fear keep me in one spot. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I was back in that place where I was so sick because I knew what was coming. But that's now where I am right now.
I am here. I am healing. I am growing. I am changing. And while I'm not cured and still am sick and still struggling with that, I'm not broken. I'm not alone. And I'm trying to not fight the current and accept where I am now, surrender to the situation of where I am and not worry, not obsess over what could happen.
Sometimes I think I prefer to stay in my closet and not talk about these hard things because its easier, because it still hurts me to talk about where I was and where I'm headed when so many things are uncertain and while I'm not cured and still struggling every day. But once in a while I think it's necessary to fling open to the door to my closet and talk about where I'm at and where I'm struggling and how my healing journey is going. Because life is not isolation.
So this is my closet, the things I don't talk about. This is learning how to live again with a chronic illness, after you were convinced you were going to die. This is learning to embrace life and trying to live walking that line between sick and normal, between not cured but still well.
I think we all have closets, things we don't talk about. And maybe my closet has sparkly gold walls and maybe your closet has rainbow walls or purple walls or a disco ball, but we all have closets. And I think life wasn't meant to be lived in isolation.
I think part of healing is finding your tribe and finding those things that feed your soul and going with it. And I'm learning. And I'm struggling and I'm embracing and I'm growing and I'm healing and I'm well.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Storage Space

I go through periods where all I can do is write. If I don't, the words settle in my stomach and make me ill. I write about Sunday mornings lying in bed, about boys who drive black cars, about the smell of the library after lunch and the sound of shoes on the hard floor and the way he watches me.
Other times, I feel barren and dried up. There are no words, nothing that comes effortlessly and flows. Every word takes thought, meticulously transferred from my mind to my tongue to my paper. I feel every nerve moving as I run the pen along the page, feel the work it takes to be the translator.
It is in these barren times I find myself collecting moments. Analyzing how it feels to lie in bed on a Sunday morning, studying the science of how things work and why, capturing the particles that wind themselves into old movie theater seats and the first snow fall.
I like the writing phases a lot more. I like having words, letting them pour effortlessly out from under my tongue. But I'm finding that being still has its beauty too.

I saw a trailer for a movie once where the girl pulled feathers out of her spine. Even though I've never seen the movie, for some reason that image is stuck in my mind. These past few days my skin has been peeling, I'm warmer than usual and there's scratching under my skin. It happens sometimes, part of a transition I suppose. And I can't help but check for feathers.
I feel hurricanes in the pockets of fluid between my bones and I feel tornados making ash out of my bones and I feel stars twinkling in my blood stream. Sometimes it feels like poetry and other times it just feels like a natural disaster lying dormant beneath my skin, a trauma waiting to happen.
People ask me if I'm ok and I am. It's just that I'm restless, tired of waiting for this transition to happen. I'm using my fingernails to claw back this layer of skin, revealing a newer, pinker layer underneath, fresh and ready to be worn away. I feel more fragile when this layer of skin has been worn through, done its job and ready to be replaced. When I'm in transition, I absorb everything like its life giving oxygen. I become very aware of the storm brewing inside of me.

My knees knock together. I unravel myself like a sweater. I am composed of moments and I feel as though I only have room to hold a few at a time. It almost feels like I'm a hoarder, pressing these moments into nooks and crannies inside my body where they don't belong but its simply because I'm all out of storage space. I peel back layers of flesh to make room for new skin, unworn, unscarred skin. My hands shake from pulling away the peeling layers.
Sometimes I feel like a car crash waiting to happen. I see the headlights before me, see the moon above me, and I brace for impact. When I hit, everything explodes and I think I'm raining stars.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Autumn

"Tell me it's all going to be ok," I said in an email. "You can lie if you have to, I just need to hear that it's all going to be ok."
"It's not," She told me, "It's going to be what it is. But you're going to be ok."

It was the last Wednesday in October and I was driving down the back roads at night, the radio playing so loud it drowned out my thoughts. As loud as it was, something about the whole thing felt still. Even though I was tucked safely behind the windshield of my car, it was like I could feel the wind coming through, going right through my sweater and the layers of my skin and blowing between each rib that makes up my ribcage, whipping away all the thoughts and fears and needs I had and leaving only stillness and serenity. And for a split second, it was all ok. Everything I needed was right here, for one minute. I felt full but for the first time in days that feeling of fullness didn't hurt. It felt like safety, security, solace.
I'm not sure if it's possible to find Holy Ground in the driver's seat of an old Jetta but if it is, I think I found it.

I have this friend who says things I think about saying but never do. And I told her this one day, sitting in a school assembly squished between her and another person. She told me that I should say it anyway, and who cares what people think.

I watched a spoken word once about apologizing for taking up space. It was late June and I decided to stop making apologizes for how I chose to live my life. "I'm sorry," I said rather defiantly, "But I'm not sorry."
I'm not sorry for saying I love you and meaning it.
I'm not sorry for loving too much.
I'm not sorry for believing in God and love and magic and the hidden power that comes in a box of hair dye and a tube of red lipstick.
I'm not sorry for not being the person you want me to be and I'm not sorry for needing you and I'm not sorry for not having it in me to be the person who can still look at you the same way and not be bitter and not be the person who has these moments where all I feel is the pain and it hurts so much I can't breathe and a scream gets trapped in my lungs where it turns to ash.

As I lay here, with all of these feelings pressing hard up against my bone, I remind myself of this. I remind myself that one day all of this will have burned down to ash that I will then scatter in the wind of the wide open space I've learned to call home and it won't hurt as much as the burning of it all.
And I remind myself that life will be what it is, but everything I need is right here, even if I don't see it yet, and that no matter what happens I will be ok.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

For You - Because you told me to be honest and this is me trying

Over the past few months, I've been writing more words than I speak. I've been writing pieces of poetry and prose, all of which are (hopefully) going to be combined into one big story. And I hope, at the end, I'm looking at something more elegant than the emotions I'm feeling as I write.
A friend told me to try honesty, but if I'm being honest the idea of honesty scares me.
I'm skin and bones, stitched together with good intentions and with the secrets and mistakes that haunt me pressed into the empty spaces in the small of my back, my hipbone, my collar bone, my ribcage. I'm trying to figure out life, and love, and God and myself and where exactly you start after you've hit the bottom. I've done it so many times you think I would know but it all feels so foreign to me, like I don't even fully understand this and my life is trial and error, hoping I don't make more mistakes than can be fixed. All these questions and secrets and words press up against the inside of me and sometimes it feels like my insides are going to burst out of me and sometimes it takes someone to remind me I'm still human. Sometimes I feel like a hurricane, and I'm not really sure what to do with that just yet.
So I write, so many words of poetry and prose and fiction and venting and talking to God with the cap locks on and I slowly begin to sort my way through this mess.
I try this thing called honesty, and this thing called working through your crap (easier said than done) and this thing called believing you are falling together not falling apart (a lot easier said than done).
And I'm trying.
 

I woke up in the middle of the night, my socks cold with frozen water, huddled in a pile of blankets. I stumbled to the bathroom and pushed back my hair, examining the bags under my eyes. I look like I’ve been wrestling tigers and sleeping with the serpents. My eyes are wild and my body is cut and torn. And I look at this girl in the mirror, the vulnerable one who feels inadequate, the one who’s finally feeling like an artist, and I touch her hand through the glass. And I tell her: "it’s ok to be afraid, darling." It’s ok.
 
 
 
 
 

 



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Sadness is not beautiful and you are not meant to be lonely"

He said that everything said within the four walls of this room would be safe. He said that out of twenty four hours in a day its not too much to ask for one of them being spent being yourself. He asked if it was possible to love one person every day for the rest of your life and i said yes, but i don't know if you can without losing pieces of yourself. And before you go into it i think you must ask yourself how much you're willing to lose.

I'm tired of running from my ghosts and ghouls. I can honestly say i have nothing to say to them anymore.

Behind closed doors, through the tiny window in the wooden door, i saw her collapse. I saw her fall into her mother's arms and i looked away, ashamed to have once again been witnessing a moment to which i was not invited. And i thought of dark circles under her eyes and a wrinkled tee shirt and the hollowness that appears when you're holding more secrets than you know what to do with. And i realized everyone has their own demons.

I said once that i hated secrets because too many and the weight of it can feel as though it is crushing your vital organs.
I didn't realize until it was too late that people can be hurricanes, forces of nature so destructive but so captivating. And i'm still learning that one person can be both the poison and the cure. Its ok to fall in love with a damaged little thing and its ok to love the same person through the shards of your mosaic heart and its ok. Its not a metaphor or an allegory, it just is. And maybe that has to be enough.

At the end of the day, crawling into bed, with a mind full of stories and a heart full of promises, sometimes it isn't enough. And there is no finely spun poetry in the world that can take the place of the truth that was never received and the words never said. There is no explanation, there is no reason, it just is. When that time comes, when the secrets and questions feel too heavy and threaten to crush your very bones, there is only one answer, one my mother told me when i was a child as she stroked my hair. "Sleep now, little one, it will all look better in the morning." Most days it does but sometimes it doesn't.

I remember him saying once that in cases of dire insanity to hug a tree. Wrap your arms around the trunk, he said, and hold on. I'm spending my days looking for the biggest oak.

I know this guy and once he sat beside me in the library. I was spending too much time staring at the wall and not enough time reading my text book and he asked me a question. I don't remember what it was but i remember that i had only been looking for a way to let all my secrets out. Because the weight of them in your arms, pressed against your ribcage, tucked up against your hipbone, running down along your spine, its heavy and it pushes and i shift in my seat with discomfort. The thing about secrets, i'm learning, is that they demand to be told. In whispered words to your childhood best friend in a garage tucked away behind the bicycles, in a journal, in a scream that shakes the earth and sends animals running and ends in shoulder shaking sobs. Secrets demand to be told or the threat settles into your bones. And i'm learning that i have too many word defying secrets.

He said that words are safe here, in this room filled with test tubes and diagrams. It feels like a place my secrets could come out of hiding if only i sat still long enough and ignored the discomfort that came with their claws on the inside of my skin. He says that there are twenty four hours in a day and for this one, in this room, you are allowed to be yourself. And i feel them like butterfly wings on the inside of my stomach. I spent a really long time running from what happened to me and i spent a long time being really uncomfortable in my skin and i feel the nudging inside of me, telling me its time to stop, time to be who i really am. The secrets don't seem so daunting here and it doesn't matter if there are no stone cold answers for my mind to chew on and mull over because my soul knows.
Here in the back corner of this biology lab my soul knows

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Land of Enchantment

I've been thinking a lot lately. Writing a lot of poetry, collecting quotes and photographs. It's an interesting time for me, one full of so much sorrow and heart ache but also full of peace.
I might not have the words to process everything right now, but I have words to make stories, and I guess in a way my creating stories is me processing it all. So here's something I wrote with the inspiration I gathered from this post


4 times in 5 days. That had to be some sort of record, even in it was only a personal one. And the tears had to be some sort of reflection of the burdened state of her heart. They were poetry in their own way, speaking when no more words could be said.
The hardest word to say is goodbye. To the man you loved with all your crooked heart, to the tiny babe who held a piece of your heart, to friends and grandparents and those barely human but very much alive. Goodbye never gets easier.

She thought about this as she walked down the road that blistery October day, her toes and the tip of her nose growing colder.
A coffin the size no coffin should be, belonging to a tiny girl who was there that day when her life changed, a girl so loved by so many who had never met her. And it reminded her of a bigger coffin, one she stood over in march and sobbed over words unsaid and promises that didn't have time to be kept. And it reminded her of the others, the coffins she never saw but the lives of those behind them that had taken a piece of her with them as they passed on into the great perhaps.
The cruelty and brutality of death must be met with the gentle hand of hope for without it everything crumbles.
Loss had put years on her. Her forehead was slightly wrinkled now, her feet colder, her body more fatigued and frail.
Being berated time after time, being forced to say the hardest word until there are no more words left, only aching sobs, it takes a toll on one's physical body.
If she were to write the names of the deceased up her arm the total would be over two dozen.
It is said there is one living person for each dead 14 and she felt she had more than her fair share of names tattooed on her skin of those who had changed her and died too soon.
When she was younger, her aunt, a seasoned veteran of life herself, used to tell her stories as she brushed out her hair. She spoke of unicorns and fairies and once she spoke of the land of enchantment.
She said the sand there was holy, and there were healing springs of life. She collected sand in plastic bags and water in tiny jars and she gave them to her friends back home. One to the divorcee, one to the motherless child, one to the ill and dying. She offered these items to her loved ones, and also offered herself.
She said perhaps we are all collecting things, filling our bags and jars. We fill and collect the offerings of others and when we are finally full we pass on.
It isn't painful, she said, rather it is more like being underwater, a breath and then as one world slips away a new one takes its place. For those left behind, though, her aunt said, when they have offered up pieces of themselves that are now gone, its the most painful thing imaginable. Suddenly you are without this part of yourself, however large or small, and you must figure out how to let it go.
People help. so do long hot showers, coffee so strong and hot it can make you wince, poetry and tears.
But in the end the only cure for the unbearable ache of saying a permanent goodbye is time itself.
One day, even if it seems unthinkable, the smile will return.
Her heart was broken. She had offered up herself to those who had gone to explore the great perhaps and the agony of living with a fractured heart was almost too much to bear.
Goodbye seems to get caught in the throat, sticky like peanut butter, and the idea of time healing all wounds seems laughable.
The idea of venturing into the great perhaps seems more appealing when you're lying on the bathroom floor with a broken heart.
But, her aunt had said, there comes a time when you must get up. Take that hot shower, stomach a cup of piping hot coffee and put one foot in front of the other. Collect moments of your own that will sustain you for a lifetime and then some extra to stow away for your own journey, when the time comes.
Swallow the hope. While it tastes sickeningly sweet in the mouth in the stomach it is a helpful remedy.
A scar will form, a reminder of the one you loved and the part of the heart that was given away, one for every unspeakable goodbye.
"Don't be afraid, my dear," her aunt had told her. "Your heart knows how to heal, even when you deem it impossible. You are a vessel, giving and collecting love. This is life."
And so, with red rimmed eyes and pale skin, she decided to get up. To shower, and make that pot of coffee and pray her aunt had been right, that over time the ache would diminish.
Besides, there was still much more loving left to do.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Peace

You don't have to know what to say. You don't have to understand. But you do have to make words. Use your words.

When I was younger, my parents would always remind me to use my words. And through my growing up years I've heard that phrase echoed many a time.
But what happens when you don't know how to make words? What happens when you feel so much inside of you that there are no words?

I sat in the library this morning next to a boy who's in my biology class. My thoughts were going off in so many different directions and I felt completely broken.
"Are you ok?" He asked me. I looked up from my text book, the one I hadn't really been reading. He was watching me, with his big brown eyes.
"I don't know how to do this..." I said, meaning more than just the biology work set out before me.
"I know," He replied.
And somehow it wasn't the wrong thing to say.
He watched me for another minute before turning back to his own work and I stared at the clock and counted down the minutes.

There's this thing they call survivor's guilt. It's found in people who have survived a traumatic event, such as combat, natural disasters, epidemics and suicides.
The inside of my left wrist has seen far too many names in the past little while. Names of those I know who have died. People who died while I survived.
Right now the black ink has been rubbed off because of the bracelets I was wearing this morning, but the letters can still be made out.
Peace

My own broken heart has been beating rapidly all day, pounding against the inside of my chest. I am reminded of the journey I am continually walking, one I don't understand, one that is breaking me in so many ways.
I am so tired. I can barely find the strength in me to lift my head, to keep fighting, to keep this broken heart beating.
And there are moments, when you slip into bed at the end of a long day, or standing before a rising purple sun after hearing news like the kind I got this morning, and you think "How long can I keep doing this?"

My own broken heart beat a little faster today, as her little broken heart ceased to sustain life. Under the rising sun I fell to my knees because this isn't something I understand. My heart is heavy and full of things I can't yet make sense of, and it slams against the inside of my chest reminding me of this little one who's heart is whole now, a little one who is connected to me, from one broken heart to another.

I am broken. I am worn. I am tired of fighting this battle and I am tired of losing and I'm just plain tired. I can barely find it in me to hold myself up. I don't understand.
And even in all of this...
Peace

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Life Keeps Moving On

My jaw pops every time I chew a bite of my not dinner dinner (a half-eaten blueberry bagel). Sulfur water is woven into my hair, reminding me of what it felt like to be alive and it’s a feeling I don’t ever want to lose. I’m avoiding washing my hair because of it.

 My nail beds are chipped and cracked, pulling apart at the seams, and my elbows are rubbed red. I’m not exactly sure why but if I had to guess it would probably have something to do with change, and this thing that is inside of me pushing and trying to get out.

 I keep thinking of this moment, in early August, when I was petrified by the idea of change. He told me that that’s life and it happens that way for a reason and then he told me that it would all be alright and that he would be coming home to me soon and I realize now he was only half lying. Because in life there is always that constant state of change and I’m always caught hanging somewhere in the balance of it all and sooner or later, in some way or another, everything does turn out alright. But he never did come home to me.

 I sat on the side of a mountain, with my feet tucked up beneath me, and I thought about how sometimes people let you down and it’s all you can do to not be disappointed. Even though he promised he would try to not break your heart, he did anyway and what once seemed like magic is now fraying at the edges and sometimes you just have to take what someone can give you and use that to build your own world. I used to think I could fit into this fairytale of a life he wanted, even if it wasn’t what I wanted. And even though my mama said to never change for anyone I would have done it anyway because I thought maybe for once in my life I could finally be the princess in a fairytale. But I think trying to fit into a fairytale that isn’t your fairytale just leaves you with a broken heart. He’s still the prince, but there’s another girl playing Cinderella.

 I wasn’t foolish enough to think that life wasn’t ever going to change, but in some na├»ve way I did think things were going to stay the same. I thought that promises made during one of those swing set summers of my childhood would be kept because that’s what love is, it’s keeping the promise anyway. And I’m still in this town where I grew up and a college acceptance letter came in the mail, but there was no phone call or text message to share the news. And I get that people grow up and things change but all I can think of is the promise, and that love is keeping the promise anyway.

It’s October now and this year has proven to me how much things can change. I’m empty handed and heavy hearted. This life I’m living is making me tired and sometimes I forget why I’m even doing it until one morning I wake up and something makes all the loving worth the pain and it gets just a little easier to breathe, a little easier to remember who I am.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Paradise Valley

Sunday morning, the first day of fall. I keep the window open, crawling under blankets to ward off the chill and enjoying the smell of the brisk air.

John Mayer’s music floats through my morning as I pull on and off clothes, trying to figure out something to wear that fits the person I’m supposed to be today.

And I think maybe it’s time to start over.

I was thinking last night about how nobody ever gives you permission not to do something. You get permission to be angry, permission to hold on to all of this stuff. But nobody ever gives you permission to let go of all that. Nobody gives you permission to not hate the person who took everything from you. Nobody ever gives you permission to let go of all of the things you’ve been holding onto.

For a few years I was stuck in a place where I was just gathering up things and holding them close. I really drew into myself and then in a matter of six months or so everything that was inside of me poured out. And it was a hard six months, and it was a time where I had to start over.

The call this year to go out and to go beyond myself hasn’t been an easy one, at all. I get anxiety and these moments where I’m just paralyzed and I sit there and go “I can’t do this. What do I think I’m doing?”

I got my heart broken and I was trying to be this person who I felt like I should be. And at this point in my life, I think I’m learning that I need to give myself permission to do the things that no one gives me permission to do.
I guess in these past few weeks I’m giving myself permission to feel things a lot more than I did before. I’m giving myself permission to not be angry and to drop this and to drop that and to admit when I’m in over my head. And it’s hard, and it’s exhausting, and sometimes there is that paralyzing moment when I have no idea how I’m supposed to do this and I’ve probably cried more in this past little while than I have in a while.

But I’m giving myself permission to feel and to say No, that’s not working for me and to change things and to let go of things and add things and mix and match and mess around with my life. And I think that’s what makes an artist.

I can tell you that in the past few weeks, I’m making a lot more art and writing more and making more music than I have in a really long time, and its stuff that I’m actually happy with. And I’m writing about love and getting your heart broken and I’m answering some of my own questions and I’m getting inside of myself and I’m just feeling. I’m messing around with things and I’ve really been pushed into this place of figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.

I think I’m more connected with myself than I have been in a while, and I’m also more outside of myself. And I’m figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t and what I need to stay sane and what I don’t need that I thought I did and I’m discovering stories and seeing people and seeing myself in a way that I don’t think I could have before.

I’ve gone through a lot in my life, and I think that for everything there is a price. And I used to think I was broken. I used to think that my heart and soul were broken beyond repair. And I do think that those four or so years of my life did cost me something. Parts of my relationships and my intelligence and control and ideologies that I had. But I’m realizing now that I didn’t lose my soul.

I think right now I’m more content than I have been in a long time. I’m on a bit of a learning curve and I’m dabbling in things and trying this and walking away from that and I’m figuring out what works for me. And it’s hard, but I’m learning what it means to fall in love again.
 And I have a feeling this next little while is going to be one where I figure out who I am and what works for me and what doesn’t and maybe breaking some rules and giving myself permission and just being. And I honestly feel somewhere inside of me that this is where I need to be.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

All You Need Is Love

She set her head on the desk and leaned her cheek against the smooth surface and closed her eyes, for a brief minute falling into a world where nothing hurt.

 The legs of his chair banged against the floor as he moved to sit as close to her as the plastic surfaces they sat on would allow, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his cheek against her shoulder.
And this moment was like a drug to her, like an intravenous drip running into her veins restoring her faith in humanity and kindness and beauty and the world slowly and all at once. And his arms around her were like a shelter, a fortress that when the winds raged outside of her windows and the rain beat against the panes and the world was carrying on as if it was in the middle of a hurricane, kept her safe and dry. And inside his arms the world made sense and sometimes when the world is hard all it takes to give you that push to keep going is knowing that someone is on your side.

It’s a pair of arms to go home to after a long day and it’s the hand to hold as you walk through the hallways of a place where everyone is trying to convince you to be someone other than yourself. And it’s those eyes that return you to your center, even when you feel as though you’ve lost your island and you’re lost in this storm with the raging winds and the rain. It’s having a person, someone who believes in you when you don’t quite believe in yourself and someone who reminds you of all the reasons why you’re worth loving when you seem to have forgotten them.

And it’s the harbor and it’s coming home and to her, he was all of that. And as he wrapped his arms around her and ran his fingers through her hair and kissed her pale skin, he was reminding her of the million and one ways she deserved to be loved.

And sometimes the world hits hard and the raging storm becomes a hurricane, a force of nature like no other, and it’s all anyone can do to stay standing. And sometimes the harbor cracks under the pressure and it just becomes two children lost in a storm. And so she cradles his head in her hands, pouring back into him the strength he infused into her. She moves her hands in small, meticulous circles over his ink black hair and her lips are moving but I can’t make out the sound and all of it appears to be like some kind of secret promise. Because when the world hits you hard and knocks you down and it’s all you can do to get out of bed in the morning and still believe in the good and the beautiful, you find safety in company. And where his heart was jaded and broken fit perfectly with the scars and jagged edges on her own and as his strength bore into her, her strength poured into him and it was this dance, a tender game of give and take.

And she sat up and looked him in the eye and she lifted her fingers and placed them on his chest, in the very spot his heart is. And his heartbeat pounded against her hand and in these life giving beats she was reminded of how beautiful life is and of the fragility and tenderness of being tragically human and how sometimes all it takes to believe in yourself is having another person believe in you.

Like two children in a storm they huddled together, creating their own force of nature, their own shelter from the incoming hurricane. With broken pieces and jagged edges and the jaded fragments of themselves that didn’t belong, a safe harbor was built.
With his heartbeat under her fingers and his arms around her waist, she found the courage within her to calm even the deadliest sea. She found a thread called beauty and a string called hope and a piece of ribbon labeled love and she used them to stitch up whatever had been inside of her that had broken.

And I guess they had been right when they said all you need is love.


Sometimes you have moments when you lose yourself. Among piles of homework and crowded halls and the lack of sleep and the infection that is taking its toll, you become someone you didn't know you could be a few months ago. Instead of thriving you're merely surviving and life becomes a gauntlet run of sorts, an obstacle course, something just to get through.
I woke up this morning not wanting to wake up. I hit the snooze button a few too many times. My stomach was in knots as I sat in my first class, untying the knot that had been made of the apron strings.
And in these moments, when life becomes just another task to check off your to-do list, you can forget about the beauty of humanity and the beauty in the world and all that has the potential to stir something within you and make you scream "Yes! I felt that. And I am more than just a collection of cells and tissues, I am a person."
I was sitting in the library, looking at a text book I wasn't reading, when I saw them. Two people sitting a few yards away from me. And inside of me they sparked a story.
They reminded me of the most beautiful thing, something I had forgotten as I paced in the trenches and was tossed around by a life that feels like you're juggling too many plates and sooner or later something is going to come crashing down.
They reminded me of the beauty in being tragically human, in being vulnerable and being fragile. And I felt something stir inside of me, something that reminded me that I, too, am a part of this human race and within me is the potential for that kind of beauty and that kind of love.
And life is hard and exhausting but it is also beautiful, if you look.
And I want to look. I want to see people that make me stare, unable to look away, and that make me fall in love with the world all over again, that stir within me stories and feelings that remind me that yes, I am human, and yes, this is what it means to be alive.
Sometimes, in the middle of an ordinary day when life seems un-ordinarily  heavy, people come around who spark within you a fire that you can use to warm yourself and regain strength. They remind you that life is beautiful, and they make you fall so in love with the world and these people and this moment and this feeling that you can't even breathe.

So, to the couple in the library, thank you. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty that still exists, and for lighting a fire of strength and passion inside of me when I felt like I was slowly losing (myself, this battle, my hope, passion, strength and love).
Sometimes, if you open your eyes and look up, people will surprise you. There will be beauty, enough to remind you that you are human and of the reason that you do this day in and day out.
Become a beauty seeker and see love, and be love, and let it penetrate your being and then reflect it back out into the world.
Because sometimes all you really need is love.

I was asked to do a guest post for my friend Crystal's new blog with the topic "Keep Walking." It was published today, and you can check that out here

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Year One

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be here today, I wouldn't have believed you.
Because a year ago today my world was shaken and I found it just a little bit harder to breathe. I was just a little bit broken.
Because there's no hiding from the truth when it looms before you on a prescription pad, glaring evidence of everything that went wrong.
I fought to get here. I was broken and, at one time or another, during those very dark first few months, I thought my situation was hopeless. I got angry, I cried and screamed and lost it and some days I didn't want to get out of bed.
There was overwhelming guilt, and the frustration and agony that comes with not understanding what is going on inside of your own body and being responsible for your own downfall. Those first few months were agonizing. I spent days and weeks and months trying to define for myself what this new life would look like, because I didn't know how to live anymore. I had to find, and speak, my truth, and I had to learn how to be authentic in a world where everyone was telling me who to be and how to act and what I needed to do.
A year ago today I got the news that changed my life and my world caved in and I fell into the depths of it for a while. Some days I didn't want to live in the dark abyss my life had become.
5 long, trying, exhausting months later, in a church pew, I finally broke. I was buried in an avalanche of guilt and fear and exhaustion and sickness and pain and grief and I basically told God that if He wanted me to live, He better do something because I wasn't going to live like this.
And, obviously, not too long after that, my life began to change.
So I'm sitting here today, in a place I never thought I would be. I'm rising up from the ashes, like a phoenix.
And while some days are still unspeakably hard and my heart is still scarred, I made it through my first year.
On this anniversary day, I do think back to what could have been. It's hard not to think about what your life could have been like or should be like or...
But the what it's don't matter. All they do is make it impossible for me to heal.
So I'm looking back on the past year with gratitude, and maybe a bit of sadness for the girl who took so long to figure out that you get to choose what defines you, and that sometimes terrible things don't break you, but save you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Feeling Of Found

The feeling of being found is not something I take lightly.
I fall in love with words.
Stories whispered so quietly they barely reach my ears in voices dripping with mystery and promise, stories that are so beautiful that even reading them feels like an invasion.
I've never met the person who wrote me this beautiful story and left it for me to find, like pieces of treasure blown by the breeze, and yet I have fallen in love with the way that reading simple words on a page could stir something inside of me that has been dormant for so long.
I fall in love with feelings.
The feeling of being found in a crowded room, of how you said my name like it was some exotic and beautiful thing. The feelings I didn't know lived inside of me anymore until you spoke my name and made me beautiful and breathed life back into these tired bones.
In these days when everything feels so new and overwhelming and foreign, when its so easy just to get lost, the feeling of being found is not something to be taken lightly. I've fallen in love with the feeling of being found, in whatever form it finds me.

“Brigan was saying her name, and he was sending her a feeling. It was courage and strength, and something else too, as if he were standing with her, as if he'd taken her within himself, letting her rest her entire body for a moment on his backbone, her mind in his mind, her heart in the fire of his.
The fire of Brigan's heart was astounding. Fire understood, and almost could not believe, that the feeling he was sending her was love.”
  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August

August has been a weird month.
It's been full of healing from the stupid things I did in all the other months.
It's consisted of seeing family and waking up friends in the middle of the night only to say things like "I feel like a hurricane" and to have them reply "I know."
It's been emails that say things like "I don't know how I'm going to get through this" and to hear the soft spoken reply of "You can, and you will. You are strong and you are not broken."
It's writing a story about what it means to be human and writing letters that say things like "I can't do this, you need to tell me how to do this, I don't want to do this."
It's John Mayer and tea and dancing to the radio and lyrics scrawled onto the back of my hand in black blue ink.
August is the final song of summer and it's my heart learning to sing again, how to once again be that song bird that I used to be but was silenced.
It's counting down the days that have passed, and counting up the days until...
It's August and fall is hanging in the air, crisp and cool, and also summer is holding on with white knuckles.
I'm looking forward to fall and to boots and sweaters and senior year, and I'm looking back on this summer with nostalgia.
This is the in between time, the whispers between the roars, the spaces between each poetic verse.
This is August and it means healing, and finding faith I thought I'd lost and learning what it means to be tragically human.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Brave

"It is not the strength of the body that counts but the strength of the spirit." J.R.R Tolkien

Hanging just above my bed, in a little emerald green bag, are 6 tiny beads. These beads are the first of my collection of bravery beads, 6 beads that represent the tests I had done on that Wednesday and all of the other procedures I've had that haven't been rewarded with a little colored bead.
I used to wonder about these beads. My friend and I were talking a while back and she commented on how she'd seen illnesses become like the Hunger Games, each person trying to out-do the other in terms of how sick they were. There's a ranking, and whether they want to admit it or not at some point almost everyone I know has compared themselves to that person over there or the one right there, figuring out where they fall in the ranking. I wondered if maybe looking at another's string of beads would be like this, another tool used to try and rank yourself and your illness.
This was until I got 6 little beads of my own. At first it was no big deal. I was excited to (finally) have some bravery beads to call my own. And then time passed and every so often I would look up at that little green bag holding my beads and smile.
The secret wasn't in the beads. It wasn't in how many beads I had compared to how many beads I've seen others have.
It was about acknowledging my own bravery.
It was about looking at those beads and knowing I earned every one of them. And it was about looking up at them when I didn't feel strong or brave and hearing the silent words "But you are."
The beads became a reminder for me that even when I don't feel brave, I am.
And I got to thinking. I think that there should be a bead for everything.
I got out of bed this morning, that was brave of me.
I stood up and dusted myself off after falling flat on my face and experiencing failure, that was pretty brave.
I made the choice to be open and honest. I remembered to take my meds. I chose to listen to my body and stay home instead of pushing it. All of those things are incredibly brave.
So why is it that so often instead of looking at those brave tasks and acknowledging them we focus on the negative? The pain endured, the task 'failed', the feeling that, even though it wasn't acted upon, was still there, the negative comment someone said or that was perceived.
I think maybe we all need some beads. To remind us of the good things, the positive things, the incredibly brave things we do.
I don't feel brave. Some days I'm struggling just to hold on. Sometimes it's not about earning a bead or a purple heart, it's just about going where you're needed and doing what needs to be done.
Looking up at my tiny green bag of beads, I smile, knowing that even when I don't feel very brave these beads prove me wrong. They remind me who I am when I forget it.
I am loved.
I am enough.
I am brave.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Invincible Summer

Just a little something I was working on...

It's the last day of July and summer is drifting into a haze, slowly disappearing into the distance, and I wonder what has become of me.

I used to be the girl who could fill pages and pages with words that meant something. They were about love and happiness and being alive.

And now I'm... what? Now I'm a shell of that girl, the girl I used to know but now, now I haven't the slightest idea who she is.

 Sometimes I catch glimpses of her, walking down the aisle in the supermarket or in the bathroom as she's combing her hair or brushing her teeth. She's lying on the couch, sometimes, and other times I catch brief glimpses of her walking down the street, the sunlight warm on her shoulders, or in passing behind the wheel of a car she pretends to know how to drive.

But mostly I don't know who she is, or where she went to after the walls crumbled in.

If I met her for coffee one evening in a Starbucks I'd like to ask her where she went. As she sips her latte with tired eyes I'd like to ask her who she is now. What happened to the beautiful girl who wrote pages and pages in notebooks and did things like cartwheel in the grass even though she knows she's not good at it and thumb through pictures in the magazines convinced she could be among them one day.

I think she would look at me, a sad smile on her lips. She would tell me she got tired of living in a battle field. There was a war raging on and staying cost her much more than leaving ever would. She would run her hands through her hair and tell me she was still there, undercover, waiting until it was safe to come out, until the war had all but ended.

It's hard to be happy and alive and write pages and pages about things like love when you're stuck in the middle of a war with dust decorating your face and the sounds of guns merging with the sounds of the flowers growing up in the warmth of the summer.



She would tell me that beauty couldn't coexist with the war, that eventually something would get over ruled. She would place her fingers around the cup and press it to her lips, closing her eyes and savoring the sweet, rich taste on her tongue and I would watch her with a wide eyed gaze, feeling a sense of familiarity, like this was home and where I was now I was just a traveler, a foreigner.

She would tell me that while she wouldn't stay gone forever right now the best thing was to sit tight, wait. There is a time for fighting, she would say, but there is also a time for waiting and you must be very wise to know which time is which.

She would lower her voice and tell me the news like she was telling me a secret "Soon the war will be over. Just wait, you'll see. Soon the war will end and I will be back for good, I promise. You just have to wait and eventually the sun will come out again and the death and destruction that has come since the enemy invaded will be gone. You have to believe that even though it is winter now there is an invincible summer. That invincible summer will not be beaten and it is within you and it is in that summer I will be. You just have to wait. And if you get impatient, like I know you're prone to do, just look inside and find that invincible summer and it is there I will be."

I look at her, this girl I used to know, and my hands shake and I want to ask her a million questions. I want to ask her how I am supposed to survive the war and how bad the devastation will get before it’s over and if I can go with her to the place where there is this invincible summer she speaks of.

As if reading my mind, this girl I used to know continues to speak, "I know you want to come but you can't right now. I don't know how long this war will last or how hard you will have to fight to stay alive but watch closely. When it's time to move from waiting to fighting you will know. You will know how to fight when it's time. The invincible summer, it is not a place. It is within you. And I, I have not left you. I am just waiting, lying low until the war ceases. I am not gone, do not worry. I am right here, whenever you need me. Just close your eyes and take a deep breath and find that invincible summer within you and it is there I will be." 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Making Room

Recently, I was asked to write a guest post for the blog of author Nancy Rue. Every time I am asked to do a guest post, I am honored, and this time was no exception. The topic I was asked to write on was forgiveness.
When I got the email asking me to write this piece, I was in a place where I needed to forgive myself. Not wanting to deal with the topic of forgiveness at all (and come face to face with my need for it) I put off the post for nearly a week. But the idea of forgiveness kept popping up. Someone would write a status about it on Facebook. On Pinterest there would be a quote about forgiveness. In a newsletter I subscribe to, in other blogs I read. I couldn't seem to escape the idea of forgiveness.
So I sat down with my computer one night, determined to write about forgiveness and get this thing off my plate. I'd dealt with forgiveness many times before, and I would just write about one of those experiences.
About halfway through my writing, I noticed a shift. I don't know if it was noticeable to anyone reading it, but I felt it.
I'm human. I am tragically flawed. I make mistakes, some I'd rather not own up to, wishing I could just sweep them under the rug and move on. And, being human, when I make some of those mistakes I beat myself up over them for days. As I was writing this, I began to observe the very tender balance between forgiveness and forgetting.
I read an article by one of my inspirations, Jennifer Pastiloff, the other day about forgetting. She raised the idea that we don't forget anything. Our memories, everything that has happened to us, is stored somewhere, unable to be forgotten, even if our mind is not consciously aware. In having this storage room of sorts, Jen says that we can let go of all the things we are holding on to that don't belong to us or no longer serve us, knowing that they are kept safe in this storage room and are not gone. This way there is more room to hold those good things in your arms, the love and the laughter and the sunny Saturday's at the lake.
This was in the forefront of my mind as I was writing the article about forgiveness. As I came face to face with my need to forgive myself.
So I made a mistake. a big one. If I hold on to this mistake, keeping it in my arms, pressed tight against my ribcage, I am taking up room I could use for holding close the people I love, or the memories I don't want to forget. Part of my fear is related to the quote that says if we all let go of our problems and saw what everyone else has we'd scoop up our own. I have this fear of letting go of my problems and letting people see them. I am learning that people won't always react like I think they will, and that really my problems aren't problems that are totally new to the human race. When I forgive myself, I can let go of everything that isn't mine that I've been holding onto- the pain and the blame and the hurt and the anger and the negative self talk. Those things don't serve me anyway.
Letting go doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean that it doesn't matter or that there's nothing wrong with what happened. It means I'm making more room for things that really matter, like the people I love and the memories I can wrap around myself like a blanket on a chilly day.
I'm not forgetting. I'm not throwing my heart and all it holds on the ground and stomping, letting the pieces fall where they will. It's all still there. It still belongs to me, the memories, the good and the bad. I'm just making room.

If you feel like reading the article I wrote on forgiveness, you can check it out here