Monday, March 31, 2014

Where I stood

The sun warmed my shoulders as I sat at the kitchen table, listening to Missy Higgins and writing about nostalgia and hope and grief and everything beautiful.
March has been good to me, in a way I never expected.
The first words I wrote this month, as it came to me full of untold secrets, were "I'm not great at ending things."
It began quietly unfolding as I wrote of bad haircuts, watching Julia Robert's movies and saying goodbye. I wrote about grief, pain, still (always) trying to analyze the hole in my chest that came from losing too many people and things that I love.
I fought with myself, constantly wrestling against the idea that there had to be something more, examining my pain under a microscope and trying to make sense of it.
I tried to find myself amidst the unknown, often stumbling over my own edges.
And then there came a moment, and maybe they all come something like this, where I tripped over myself and fell into what I had been looking for.
For a brief moment in time, there was nothing left to say. No apologies sneaking out in the form of poetry, no love letters slipping out of the pen every time it hit the paper. There was just the sound of my heart, and I was learning how to listen to it.
During this month of March I often fought between my heart and my head. I felt like I needed constant reassurance that everything was ok and that I was ok.
And I encountered something I am still trying to explain, and can only describe as radical grace.
In my running away from myself I ran face first, full speed into radical grace, radical faith, radical love and hope.
I had some real, honest conversations with people about my life and where I've been and where I want to go, and maybe I was a little bit surprised by the responses I got. Because sometimes if you give people a chance, they will surprise you and it will be great.
For the first time in forever I realized how loved I am (even if that's something I am still trying to understand)
I laughed and cried and struggled and fought against myself and for myself a lot this month. I got real, got scared, got excited, got honest, got loved.
And I made some big decisions about my future, which are slowly unfolding into something beautiful.
For me, I think March was about beginning that journey to find myself, and listening to my heart and being honest about that. And while that's been my intention I definitely experienced it in a really real and crazy way.
Listening to Missy Higgins and writing in the sunshine was a perfect way for me to wrap up this beautiful, crazy month of grace.
And while I don't know what the next month or few months or year will hold for me I can only hope it involves more of this radical kind of love, and grace and faith. I can only hope it involves more of this being cracked open, because this, I am learning, is how the light gets in.
Even if it's painful
Even if it's hard
I am learning to open myself up to the light and to love and to others and to myself

Sit down on the top there. After all, you climbed all the way up. You did that. Not me. Not your past. You: here and now. It was a steep climb and you almost fell but you didn't. Go on and sit down. And when the trees ask you to stay awhile, tell them "yes, yes, I plan to. In fact, I have always been here. I have always been the light

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hoarding: Buried Alive

I say the word sometimes, stringing it along with the other things I call myself in the dark, things that you couldn't possibly say aloud
Except that I did
I think there are parts of yourself, memories, that you keep closed off.
For me it's old relationships, that boy who broke me into a million tiny pieces, each boy that followed, hours spent fighting for my life and against it, the addictions you pick up in order to preserve your sanity (Everyone has them)
I cling to my stories, use them as protection, keep them in glass jars in formaldehyde on shelves in the cellar.
Grief. Pain. Loss. Depression. Addiction. Sickness.
Sometimes happy memories too, but I find that the moments that have rocked my world so profoundly are usually the ones where I have fallen to my knees in desperation.
I keep these stories, these moments, these memories close to me because they are mine, and also because there seems to be something sacred hidden in them.
There is something unspeakably sacred about the moments that have changed you as a person, and there is something to be said for writing about those moments for all they are worth. Turning them into poetry or a blog post or a journal entry.
This past week I haven't been writing much. I've been fiercely guarding my little story, tucking it up against my chest whispering the same words over and over again
"Shhhh, it's ok, I'm right here. You're ok. I love you."
I've been speaking my truth out loud, to others and also to myself. It is liberating, but also terrifying. I am realizing how I am the only thing standing in my way.
I am calling conditions, calling out my own crap and things that belong to others that I've been hoarding for far too long
The friendship that no longer exists, the relationships I haven't fully let go of, that one time when I slipped on that one day however many years ago
I realized how much I have been holding onto things that aren't mine, and holding onto all this stuff that is mine but that I've been convincing myself is necessary
I am learning to find that fine line, between being there for myself and protecting my little budding story, and calling conditions.
I think if you hold onto all those stories, the guilt and the lies and the shame and the pain, it will bury you alive. It did me.
I also think if you deny your story, and your truth, you will be buried beneath an entirely different sort of mountain.
I'm not there yet, but I'm trying. It is a constant tug of war, between letting go and holding onto and sheltering my story and throwing it all out there (I think sometimes they are the same thing) and in the end I have learned (am learning) I can only say this: Ok. I understand you are feeling... It's ok, I'm right here, and I love you
I am learning to listen to my own truth and it sounds a lot like this...
I am
I am
I am

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Dinner

I imagine hosting a Sunday dinner
Autumn leaves delicately balancing on branches and the sun beating down on my shoulders
The table is set with potato salad and apple pie and lemonade
It feels like coming home
Someone will play guitar and we will sing, loudly and off key.
There will be dancing, and we will spin until we get dizzy
And as the sun sets, we will sit before the crackling fire and exchange stories and drink hot coffee out of tin cups
I am learning there is something unspeakably beautiful about being in the presence of someone who loves you
There is something unexplainable about speaking your truth, the best and the worst parts of yourself, without trying to justify or explain. And if you give people a chance, I am learning sometimes they might surprise you
We will sit under the stars and tell our stories, one after another, words rolling out of our mouths. It will feel something like becoming holy, something like being reminded of who you really are, something like stepping into sunlight after so long stumbling in the dark
I pour you another cup of coffee
There is something about being here, in this place, with this food and these friends, that makes you feel nourished, feel like you are perhaps becoming whole again
You, my love, are so much more than broken
Remember that, okay?
I have many things in my heart, many unanswered questions
but when you lean in and ask
How are you?
I will watch you, memorizing the colors in your eyes and the love radiating into my body and I will say

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Skinny Love

She sat in the driver’s seat of her car, in the parking lot, taking one ragged breath followed by another.

 There are moments, she decided, when your past and your future collide and it feels like an accident. There is broken glass and screeching tired and screaming and your right hand shakes as you try to hold the pen between your fingers.

 There are moments when there is no truth left in you to be spoken, and that is when you need to speak the truth most.

 The words slipped from her lips like turpentine, running like naked hooligans up and down the aisles before she had a chance to capture them, smooth down their cowlicks and straighten their collars. They simply existed without her knowledge, tumbling out of her mouth one after another like small towheaded children rolling down a grassy hill in June.

 And while she rambled on, all the while feeling this intersection between who you have been and who you want to be, he watched her. His eyes were unwavering, despite how many times she looked to see if he had shifted his glance, or flinched, cringed at the sight of her horror and her wonder being birthed into existence.

 To find your truth, sometimes you have to get on all fours in the ashes and dig through them, sifting through the rubble with bare hands. It is messy, and there are things pulled from the ground that you would rather have stayed unearthed, but this is how you grow. You speak your shame, illuminating it as it bursts into being. And by speaking the words aloud, they lose some of their power.

  He watched her, hands curled around his coffee cup, and the way his eyes penetrated her being unnerved her. It was like the moment before the crash, when you are trying to brace yourself for impact. She kept waiting for the fallout, the one that always followed. She was waiting for him to condemn her, like she had done to herself all these years. She was looking for justification but he wasn’t giving her any.

 She hadn’t known unconditional, unwavering love until she looked into his eyes. He had listened to her story, untamed and wild, and chosen not to look away. And she could feel it, the quiet roar within her starting to grow louder

 Do you not know how strong my love for you is?

 We are each given a story, a truth. It is raw and unedited, sometimes messy, sometimes reckless. Sometimes your heart is wearing so many scars it looks like someone has taken a paintbrush to it, because there have been too many times you have tried to paint over the broken places, finding love in places where it doesn’t belong.

 Her heart was wind worn, falling apart at the seams. There are marks from all the staples and tape and glue she tried to use to hold herself together, one for every man she romanced in attempts to numb the pain and she wears them like notches on a bedpost.

 And as she sat alone, reflecting on the way He had looked at her, chosen her, put his claim on a bruised and bleeding heart, whispering this one is mine over the girl who has called herself unlovable, her body shook with the emotion that was coursing through her veins.

 You don’t get to choose your story, she decided, but you do get to make peace with it. You get to say “This is not how the story will end.”

 You get to make that choice to learn from the past, not change it, and use it to move you towards a better future.

 Despite the tears on her cheeks, there was a hopefulness in her heart that hadn’t been there for a really long time. It was the beginnings of something, a small tender shoot that, if cared for, would grow into a beautiful flower.

 It was there, waiting for her if she would only try.

 And despite the words in her head and the words on the page, she heard the silent roar leak out of her mouth: Do you not know how strong my love is?


Friday, March 7, 2014

If You Say So

I have been keeping my head down, avoiding Facebook, trying to pretend this day doesn't exist.
But it does
It's a whole year later and I still don't have the right words to say
Not that I haven't tried. For a whole year his name has leaked into every bit of writing.
I've fought with his memory, wrestled with my own emotions, stared at myself in the mirror so long wondering who this girl is now, and how she is supposed to react.
I have realized, in all my searching, that there is no guidebook for this. There is no one here except for me.
I have become somewhat selfish in my grief, wrapping it around me like a blanket. I don't talk about it to anyone, and am caught off guard by those who seem to put their grief on display, large pieces of it being lived out loud.
This is my memory, mine, you can't have it. This is all I have left of him. It's mine
I relive the pain over and over because is there really any other way? I could curse my writer's heart, something internal that brings up what I spent so long trying to forget every time I sit down to write or go to bed early or listen to a certain song.
And maybe I should curse my writer's heart for feeling so much, for pretending it could handle this
I'm keeping my head down, writing the same thing over and over because it is still living inside of my body. I have a playlist of songs I avoid, but some things still manage to catch me off guard, like the smell of French fries or someone named Katie. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch Sue Thomas F.B.I since.
It is like my skin has been rubbed off and I am just trying to avoid sharp corners and salty foods and lemons.
I am trying to make a roadmap, to understand this, to create myths and stories until I have what I need.
For a whole year, I have screamed and wailed and cursed and tried to build something from nothing. I have avoided mirrors and sharp edges, listened to too many sad songs, written and re-written the story I am still trying to find the right words to tell.
I haven't stopped writing because there is this moment when you are writing when everything else just fades away. It is almost like a meditation, when there is just this space.
And in that space I can take a deep breath. I can hear him.
"I'm sorry," I say
"I know"
There is a breath, a pause, and then
"I'm right here," He says
"I know," I reply, "Me too."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Soon this place will be too small"

Writers scribbling in the midst of grief have noted the ways in which writing about the experience from the inside creates something new, namely, a safe or safe-ish place to rest. A net, a landing point, a dock from which to view the turbulent and troubled waters without having to wade in it every moment of the day. In a word: relief. The act of creation forces the creator to establish a new world with new rules and structure and form, an act that is sustaining not only in an emotion and a human way, but also in an artistic way."
From Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

For as many times as I've done it, you would think that letting go is something that comes easy to me. And yet I still find myself fighting against it, my heart suffering from whiplash and weathered by the elements.
There is something they don't tell you about the moment when you alter your position to the universe.
My hands and feet are cold, I am filled with reckless ambition, I have avoided mirrors and sharp corners and acidic foods simply because this is what you do when you have been stripped down to a new layer of skin.
Sometimes I think it would be easier if I could plot my relation to the universe with a simple formula, putting things into neat little boxes.
I am angry because...
I am sad because...
But sometimes there is no explanation, only still silence. It is in that silence I can hear my own heartbeat like a machine gun as it slams into my chest wall.

Don't write if you don't feel up to it, people cautioned me when I told them I had started to write {about Ronan}. But it didn't matter if I felt up to it. It was my responsibility; it was my job. It ordered chaos, focused energy, provided a way of "bearing up" that no period of restfulness could possibly accomplish. In other words, rendering loss was a way of honoring life

I have spent months writing about grief, running it over in my hands, preserving it in every way that I can. I have spent days chasing after life, wondering what exactly constitutes life, and love, and always altering my position to both.
I have said the words I love you many times, and most of them meant Please don't leave me here alone
I write in my own blood, until my heart is exposed on the page. Sometimes I wonder if this also constitutes as art. I wonder if there is something beautiful in being so exposed and fragile.
I have been digging through my own ashes, pulling the gore from my chest with my bare hands, staring at myself and realizing that my horror and my wonder are colliding in this very moment in a place under my skin, that I am both.

After a second suicide attempt, Mary awakens on the bank of the Thames, having just been rescued from the water. This event marks a kind of rebirth for her, an awakening.
'We must go on living' Mary concluded, 'It is our duty'

And so, in the darkness, I am working to build a life for myself. I am capturing moments of beauty, storing them, treasuring them. I often feel like I am laboring long hours, and in the end I can only hope the outcome has been worth the heartache.
There is great heartache that comes with letting yourself be loved, I have decided. I am continually altering my place in the universe, constantly shifting, expanding and shrinking, pulling in and releasing with open hands.
There is nothing left inside of me to offer right now. My hands are empty, my body turning in on itself, my eyes always looking for glimmers of hope.
Somehow, as hard as I have tried to hold onto the past, this feels like starting over.
As much as I have made myself believe I must hold onto the pain and grief, never forget the extremes it has taken to become this person, right now it feels like I am awakening into spring, a new beginning.
There comes a time when you must taste hope for what is really is, and open your heart once more to the potential.
I have held things (people, pain, stories, grief, moments) close to my heart claiming that I would never let go of these that have impacted me so greatly
But sometimes it is time to let go
And you must stand in the wind with your arms raised to the heavens and trust that this is how it is, how it is supposed to be

I stared at him and tickled him and kissed him and wished that my words, anything, could save him. But no, writing would not save Ronan. But, I thought, it might save me