Thursday, January 30, 2014

Love (An open letter to the boys I've loved)

For all the boys who asked me if I was writing about you, I was :)

It's four simple letters, two vowels, all strung together in a row like the popcorn I threaded together and strung on the tree every Christmas
It sounds like it should be simple, like the pattern of consonant and vowel should run together smoothly, feeling like  pebbles on the inside of my cheeks
If only if it was that easy
If only the letters strung together made sunshine instead of tsunami tides, gave me a place to write my name in the mountains of it all, tying myself to the cliff so that when I fall I won't crack my head open on the earth below
See, I've never been good at this thing they call love
Maybe it's because I have selfishness inside of my bones, forces of nature that line up to create the worst storm you've ever seen
Maybe it's because I come from the place where the wild things are, unprecedented with stars in my hair and ashes stuck to the bottom of my shoes
The first boy I ever loved I met when I was 14. He told me I was pretty, spent time with me in a kitchen that wasn't ours, sat on the counter and watched as I learned what it meant not to be afraid. The first boy I ever loved made me brave
The second boy I ever loved made me weak in the knees, gave me butterflies and reminded me that inside of me is parts of nature I often forget to see. When he left it was the worst motion sickness I've ever known
The third boy I ever loved was in love with someone else. He knit me together, using the backs of his hands as blueprints for how one is supposed to be, tying me together, trying to create perfection. Someone forgot to tell him that he wasn't God and you can't turn people into houses.
The fourth boy I ever loved showed me the power of hurricanes, the steel strength of pouring rain, he made me believe in magic. And a world that exists beyond my line of sight, that there is always something over the horizon, you just have to find it
Five. His eyes found me in a crowded room
Six. He talked to me like I hung the moon, like stars shot out of my fingertips every time I sat down to write and said when I spoke he could see the milky way
Seven I loved when I was lonely, on the nights when he refused to give up on me and let me slip into oblivion
Eight. Apparently I smiled whenever she said his name. He asked me what my political stance was like it was a pick up line. He pretended like he saw galaxies inside of my eyes
The ninth boy I loved, well I didn't love him. I dove into him like you dive into a swimming pool filled with water, trying to lose myself in him.
Love leaves me broken, having given everything inside of me, offering it out in cupped hands, having it never be enough. I am lying on the carpet, naked and trying to remember who I was before I loved you. I'm trying to remember what it was like when the names of boys weren't scribbled all over my diary, when I didn't write love poems for boys I'd only just met, when I was enough for myself
When I didn't feel the brokenness that comes with being alone, the morning after he leaves you, when it's just not working out or you've done it too many times and he's had enough, after screaming and name calling and crying into the dark, when the sound of the toaster makes you jump. I've written too many poems about what happens after you love someone, how the pain can linger for days, like a sword slicing it's way down your body, when you're using a sewing needle to try and suture your heart back in your chest
There's a reason I said I wasn't good at love and it wasn't because I thought I would be happier alone
It's because I'm tired of writing poems about the boys who break my heart, the ones who say my name like its magic and then hold it over me like it's the thing monsters are made of, don't say I didn't warn you.
When you say my name like it's the cure, please listen to me when I tell you it's not really.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Here's to the good times (A thank you letter)

This is a thank you letter

This is a thank you letter to the world that birthed me, that raised me up to become the person I am today, to the trees and the rocks and the flowers and the ocean, to the stars that formed me and then called my name, reminding me that I always belong somewhere, this one is for you.
This is a thank you letter to those who were present that night when I was born, for the doctor who said "It's a girl!", for the nurses who cleaned me up and set me in my parent's arms, who made me the most special, newest human on earth for brief seconds, this one is for you.
This is a thank you letter for my parents who chose life, who decorated my nursery and took pictures of my firsts that would fill my baby book to remind me that I didn't have only lasts, but also firsts, who stood beside my bedside time and time again, tirelessly, late into the night, standing guard like soldiers, this one is for you.
This is a thank you letter to the friends I had growing up, who taught me the basics of human interaction. Even though we were just silly kids, I always believed we could be something more.
This one is for the people who bruised my heart, the ones I can still count off on my fingers. They say you always remember the bad things more than the good things and I guess they're right. I still remember it all. But thank you anyway, because you showed me who I could be.
This one is for the missions team that summer when I was 14, who were there for me when I needed someone, who taught me that love is really the strongest force of all.
This one is for the people who told me I couldn't do it. I proved you wrong, thank you for pushing me to try.
This is a thank you to the poets, the philosophers, the kind souls who touched me with their light and reminded me that we are not alone on this gauntlet, who encouraged me, listened to me, and laughed with me. Without you I wouldn't be half the creative mind I am.
This is a thank you for the friends that saved me, the best friends who remind me who I am even when I forget
For the friends I met when I decided to fearlessly step out of my comfort zone this year, who endured stress and teachers and tests with me, but also so many laughs, debates, questions and who connected with me in such an amazing way
For the people that don't quite fit, who are pushing against labels and boxes, this one is for you
This is for the ones who told me it was ok to be loud, to use my voice, to be passionate and opinionated and fierce
This is a thank you to all the boys I wrote poems about
This is a thank you to all the amazingly strong women who taught me what it means to be a woman, to be strong and smart and kind
Here's to John Green videos on bad days, late night conversations and music
This is a thank you to the doctors who saved me, the friends who saved me, the family that saved me, the words that saved me
This is for the teachers that inspired me, the poets that moved me, the moments that screamed Remember this
Here's to road trips, country music, taking adventures and writing about them
This is a thank you to the boy on the bus that one summer, the boy in the hospital waiting room, the boy in Chapters with a book and headphones, this is for all the people who's stories I've told without knowing their names
You matter
Thank you
Here's to the good times

Sunday, January 26, 2014

On Grief and Pioneers

My friend Hannah wrote a piece on grief
I've written before that this month, this season, has been very introspective for me. A lot of looking inward, using my hands to sort through the mess inside of my chest like scooping the seeds and stringy guts out of a pumpkin when I was little.
There have been many cups of tea, many words whispered late into the night and written down in the margins of my biology notes, in notebooks and typed into my computer, much yearning coming from this heart of mine.
I become fierce, howling at the moon.
Even with years of practice, I'm still not that great at doing grief.
Even with all these years behind me, I still feel like a pioneer, turning up the soil with my fingers, marching through uncharted territory, each step timid and shaky.
It is in these days I've been listening to the same song on repeat, often crying through the whole thing, drinking coffee black and tea because someone told me that tea makes you happy. I've been sleeping a lot, because someone else told me that sleep makes everything better, and I'm learning he was right about that, even if he was wrong about a lot of other things.
I'm taking on the role of a pioneer.
Pioneer: one of the first to settle in a territory, a plant or animal capable of establishing itself in a barren or open area
I've been moving slowly, writing much, discovering that sometimes there isn't an answer for everything. I've been taking shaky steps towards the future, towards this uncharted territory, when all I want to do is run the other direction, fast.
I've been here before.
Here being in this state of grief, this state of not knowing, this state of fear, this state of not feeling like you belong anywhere.
It feels like stretching, pulling, tugging, shifting, like the world is turning too fast and all I want it to do is stop.
I don't know what's coming next, and I'm not going to pretend I do. I don't know when this season of grief will end, when the sun will rise after a long night.
But I know I'm not the only one who's been here. I'm following the trails of those who have gone before me, those who have bravely walked full speed face first into the dark. Maybe my journey won't be the same as theirs (there are often moments when it feels like I'm the only one to ever experience this, and in some respects I am) but it helps knowing that there are other people out there.
Other people who have been scared to death. Other people who have sat with their grief and didn't die from it. Other people who saw the choice to kindly leave or walk into the dark.
I follow the pioneers who so bravely went before me, making their own trails through the darkness. I find courage in their ashes, bravery in their stories, hope in their truths.
And I make my own path, begin my own journey as a pioneer, walking full speed face first into my own dark, into this uncharted territory where I'll eventually make a home.
This is where it begins. You make a home in the dark, make friends with the grief, embrace it only to find it isn't so scary after all. You become a pioneer, and maybe after a while it doesn't hurt so bad and you can finally see that sun.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I refuse to be silent

When my friend Isabelle asked me to write a letter to myself for her blog, I was honored. Of course, I told her, I'd come up with something.
I spent days trying to think of what to write. I wanted it to be amazing, I wanted it to showcase the light on the other side of darkness, and if I'm being totally honest I didn't want it to be too honest, too reflective on my own weakness.
There is light in the darkness, but there are also days when the darkness is so overwhelming, so overpowering it's impossible to remember there is light beyond this, much less catch a glimpse of it every now and then.
The post I ended up writing I wrote in 15 minutes. I wrote it after a day when I was exhausted, when I felt like I was done trying to get it right and I had nothing left to give.
I don't like to admit to those days. It worries people and I feel like it makes me seem weak and people look at me differently when I confess that my life is pretty messy at times, a mosaic made up of shattered pieces that I keep trying to arrange into something beautiful.
The letter I wrote to myself was on one of those days. It was on a day when I got into my car after hours spent with people and broke down while Springsteen was on the radio. I was tired, and frustrated, and everything hurt and I didn't want to take any more.
So I wrote this letter to remind myself that bad days come, and you just have to feel them out. But good days come too. Days when people end up surprising you, and your heart is so full of love it might just burst. Days for dancing and wearing red lipstick. Days when there is sunshine out there and you can feel the light penetrating your being.
I refuse to be silent about the things that matter, about who I am, even the messy, hard parts.
I refuse to be silent

"Jacob, where do you find the strength to carry on in life?"

"Life is often heavy only because we attempt to carry it," said Jacob. "But I do find a strength in the ashes."

"In the ashes?" asked Mr. Gold.

"Yes," said Jacob, with a confirmation that seemed to have traveled a great distance. "You see, Mr. Gold, each of us is alone. Each of us is in the great darkness of our ignorance. And, each of us is on a journey. In the process of our journey, we must bend to build a fire for light, and warmth, and food. But when our fingers tear at the ground, hoping to find the coals of another's fire, what we often find is the ashes.

And, in those ashes, which will not give us light or warmth, there may be sadness, but there is also testimony. Because these ashes tell is that somebody else has been in the night, somebody else has bent to build a fire, and somebody else has carried on. And that can be enough, sometimes."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Another breakup poem

So I've decided to share a little of what I've been working on lately, some of the writing that is making my heart sing. These pieces are personal and honest and I've decided to only share the ones where nobody really knows who they're about. So this is one of the pieces in my current Taylor-Swift-Style-Poetry stuff.

I fell in love with the world that slipped through your fingertips, the one that curled its way through your crooked gap toothed smile. You seemed comfortable in my world, like you fit. Just like the way your fingers curled around mine when we were sitting in class and you thought nobody noticed, just like the way you casually leaned over and looked at my paper, so close I could feel your breath on my skin and I thought, for the seventy sixth time, that this is what it’s like to love someone.
I can turn you into a poem. Wrap your body in words, run circles around your mind with my ribbon made of elegant prose and not-quite-there rhythm. I can turn you into a work of art; hang you on the wall of my chest like a Picasso painting. I can romanticize heartbreak and, when we end, as inevitably all relationships do, I can write you a mean breakup poem. You will become a monument, a reminder that I loved you once.

But me? You will turn me into another notch on your bedpost. I will dissolve in the cereal you eat every morning for breakfast. My name will be crossed out in your notebooks, the ink underneath bleeding through your best attempts to erase me the only proof that I was here. I will be just another girl, just another story you put on the back shelf and forgot about. I’d write a book for you, darling, but me, I’m replaceable.

They say don’t bother falling in love with a writer because she will capture your every word on paper, turn you into a shrine and dance circles around your memory, making magic out of you forgetting to put milk on the list and having to eat day old macaroni and cheese. She will turn your flaws into just another place to kiss you. And when you leave, she will spend months questioning the existence of the sun, writing more and more pages about how you loved her once, how she loved herself once.

But I think they should say to the writer not to bother falling in love with anyone. Your heart is this animal, a fragile beast. You will fall in love twelve times before breakfast. He won’t turn you into a monument and praise your memory; he’ll just forget to put milk on the list and never pick his clothes up off the floor.

If a writer falls in love, she’ll just end up writing another breakup poem.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Poetry Taylor Swift Style

January is turning out to be very introspective. It's like the cozy blue sweater I'm wearing. It's been the perfect backdrop for me to ask the big questions, to screw things up (over and over and over) and to actually get a few things right.
I've been getting pretty honest in January, pretty stripped down to the core and left to sort through all the mess with my own two hands, pretty raw.
I've been writing a lot this month, but not sharing a lot. The words I've written are words I'm incredibly proud of. They are some of the most brave, most honest words I feel I've ever written. When I get to the end of whatever I'm writing I can feel it in every part of my body and sometimes it helps me figure out what I'm thinking and sometimes I rework the same piece over and over again until I finally get it write (And sometimes I don't get it right.)
Most of the pieces I'm working on right now, and have been for the majority of this month, are addressed to certain people. Old friends and new friends and people who's stories I've heard or who have said something that struck a nerve with me. I write them all down, making pretty good poetry of it all.
I feel like that person that if you ask me if I'm writing about you, I probably am.
I feel like Taylor Swift in that I'm going to end up turning my heartbreaks and friendships and loves into pieces of art.
I understand now why people do it. I don't know if I would be so brave as to put it all out there for everyone to see, but I can understand why people do.
For me, writing is how I process the world. It's how I understand things, including relationships and things that happen in my life on a daily basis.
So recently I've been writing a lot of real, honest words, spending more time getting my feelings out onto paper (scribbling so fast the side of my hand is covered in ink and I can barely read what I've written) and less time blogging and talking about my feelings. Less being open with the world and more being open with myself. And I think there is a time for both.

Poetry has to be honest. Without honesty, it's useless