Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dialog with a stripper

The idea of becoming scares me

I think there are moments when every writer forgets they are actually a writer. Suddenly you become the worst person in the world, and your mind is filled with words like lazy and unproductive and destined to fail. This is called the inside of my head when I am going through writer's block.

I sat in English class this morning, where my teacher read us a poem written during the siege of Sarajevo. The poet said that writing through the war was hard, but what was harder was not writing.

She asked us to write our responses, and I wrote that writers get naked for a living.

It's a line in a poem by Rudy Francisco, in which he compares being a writer to being a stripper.

A certain degree of honesty, and probably fearless stupidity, is needed to share your soul with the world. The most intimate, honest details of yourself are on display for other people and some people call me brave.

He looked in my eyes and told me this was a good starting place, but a starting place for what?

What will honesty and a few pennies in my back pocket buy me?

And when they say love doesn't pay the bills they mean it.

One of my biggest fears is that I will lose myself to a job I hate, to a life I resent, to something that feels forced and so unlike me.

Writing is one of those careers that makes people question your sanity. Writers always get this reputation for being crazy, and maybe we are.

Maybe it takes a little bit of crazy to bear your soul for the world to see, to turn your deepest failures and disappointments into poetry, to stand naked in front of people you've never even met, and some you have, and bear your soul, saying "Will you take this for me?"

Sometimes I'm scared that they will break it.

Most times I remember I don't have a whole lot left to lose.

I'm not sure which one scares me more.

When I was little, the first time I heard the word stripper used in a sentence, I laughed. As I got older, I began to see more of myself in the moment when I'd first heard that word. I was always taking off layers, spreading myself thin trying to get attention and fill this void inside of me. My sanity was a small price to pay for feeling worthy.

You probably know more of my secrets than you think you do.

And don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I can't imagine doing anything else. Writing is like breathing the purest oxygen, it's making love all over again every time I pick up the pencil and put it to paper, it's how I'm finding my sanity again.

But there are days when I am lost in the business of it all, when being a struggling artist sounds less romantic and more desperate, when self doubt plagues my mind and writer's block leaves me lacking inspiration and creativity and the feeling of fullness I have come to marvel at as it blossoms to life inside of me.

There are days when being a writer feels a lot like being a stripper, and I wonder why I'm standing here naked, bearing my soul with all it's scars and tattered edges.

I tell my version of the truth, hand my heart over to people with whom it will never be properly introduced. Sometimes I forget to tie my shoelaces and end up tripping over myself on my way out the front door to make something beautiful.

Sometimes my beautiful ambition turns into standing on the street corner with a bloody nose and a bruised eye without my clothes. My soul is dangling outside of my body and I wonder why I love this job so much.

Sometimes the things you love have the power to destroy you. And sometimes they also have the power to put you back together.

For me, writing is both. It is my destroyer, and my redeemer. It is everything beautiful, the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning, the thing I want to spend my whole life doing, how I interpret the world.

It is messy and honest and bold and beautiful and if you give me five minutes of your time I'll entertain you by stripping down to my soul and letting you sneak a peek.

I only ask that you are gentle with it.

Because after the night is over and I've covered my soul with layers again I still have to go home.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


My friend Jen is a firecracker. She has taught me a lot about a lot of things, proclaiming she swears too much. She writes these incredibly honest essays that make me reflect back on my own life, and want to be more honest. She has a way of making me unafraid.
I've never met Jen, but if you asked me for a list of the most influential people in my life, she would definitely be on there. And on my bucket list is to go practice yoga with Jen.
Jen's nephew Blaise has Prader Willi Syndrome and Autism. Blaise has taken to calling people. And while he doesn't mean anything bad by these calls, there have been people who have gotten upset.
Jen's sister started something that can only be described as a movement called I hope Blaise calls me. It's a group of people showing their support for Blaise, but also people who want to spread the message of acceptance.
I've spoken out about my feelings before on the idea of acceptance. I've gotten loud and proud about my own health situation.
I'm learning my voice can make a difference.
So right now I'm speaking out about something I believe in.
I believe in the message of acceptance, and I believe in making a difference.
I believe that when people come together, great things can happen.
If you want to get involved with the #ihopeblaisecallsme movement, check out their facebook page

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Life keeps moving on

It's our first night in the new place and despite the exhaustion sinking into my bones, I feel the need to write this down.
"Write this down!" A voice screams at me "Don't forget this!"
As I was packing my things, I saw how many useless pieces I had held on to - clothes I had outgrown and half empty bottles of lotion and things long past their useful time. But I think my writing is also like that. It's a place where I keep all of these things, just in case I need them again one day.
Sitting here I feel nostalgic. I feel unsettled. This room is fresh, with none of my memories hanging on the walls. All my things are here, but these walls haven't seen my tears, or seen my lovesick smile. Maybe I'm nostalgic more for the memories those other walls held than the actual room itself.
Moving always feels like casting aside, getting rid of things and starting over with a blank slate. And there's always a slight sense of panic. Because what if I forget what happened in the old room? What if I forget the things that happened and how it changed me? What if, without that physical, concrete reminder, I forget?
It takes me a while to remember that I still have the memories, tucked away somewhere in the back of my mind. I still have this evidence in every word that I write in an attempt to not forget this.
I don't know if I could forget this, even if I tried. I think there is some part of your body that remembers, even if you try to forget.
At a certain point, I think, you're just lugging around things that don't even really belong to you anymore.
Like this is my dad's shirt from 27 years ago or this tendency to keep moving and never let anything sit for a while belongs to my mother.
And you don't know why you keep dragging it along behind you, you just do
Sami sent me this email today, after I sent her one about how thinking of my other empty room made me want to cry, about how this new room is like a bookshelf. It's a blank canvas, a fresh start. And even though the bookshelf is new, all my books are still there.
All the memories I made before this are still in this body somewhere, and all the memories I make after this will be stored right alongside the old ones, until they are touching hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder.
Just because the physical space changes doesn't mean the things in it do.
But there is still this part of me that says "No, I need that! This defines me, this keeps me in place."
It's sort of like an anchor. If I have that half empty bottle of lotion and that scarf someone (I don't know who) gave me as a gift a few years ago, I won't lose my place. I can stay centered and I know who I am.
You think with as many times as I've done this, it would be easier. But it doesn't get easier. Every single time I attempt to pack my life into boxes and throw things out there is a part of me that still thinks my memories are in these tangible objects.
And so, physically and mentally and emotionally, I end up sticking my things into boxes because I'm too afraid to let them go.
I've never been really good at letting go. Not of relationships that have become toxic, not of habits that have become harmful, not of patterns I have been carrying around from generations past. Not of my dad's shirt from 27 years ago or that skirt I wore on that one day when I was happy. I stick everything into a suitcase and drag it around behind me, convinced by holding on to these things I won't have to let go, and then I can maintain my center and my place and my memories.
It happens though, every time we move. Every time a big life change hits. It's time to let go, scheduled right there in the calendar between moving day and Sunday.
Sometimes your arms just get heavy from carrying all this stuff you hold on to because you think it makes you matter and you think it will keep the memories from slipping away.
They won't slip away.
They're right here, tucked inside of you like a treasure chest.
When it comes time to let go, it's a little sad. The nostalgia is overwhelming. But I've been told it's worth it.

inspired by this, and this

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Love is (Not a feeling)

I've been writing a lot this month. Mostly losing myself in poetry, with the way it sits on my tongue and the way it sounds like a revival when I hear it spoken out loud. But also in a stories I've been working on, and essays and in journal entries.
This is a little bit from one of the stories I've been working on.

I can feel the slow deterioration of my body.
Every aching muscle sending off vibrations in my being echoes his name. Sometimes I think that these days his name resides in every part of me, that it is there just nestled between bones and muscles, tucked away in corners of organs, just waiting for a nerve impulse to send it shooting up my spinal cord.

It is these days when I feel as though I am collapsing into the sun.
I can almost visualize the tantalizing physique, the outline of my ribcage as it glistens in the sunlight. There are cob webs hanging off the top ribs, dusty gathered upon the surface. Some have been cracked, and you can see the fragments of bone hanging on loosely, see the scars from where the wounds were ripped open repeatedly, never left to set in the way they were supposed to.

The warm water licks my skin and it is as if I am baptizing myself, submerging myself in liquid and trying to scrub the dirty from my skin, rinse away the guilt and the regret with the apricot shampoo.

Whenever I think I am moving on, that there is a slightest chance I can be more than who I’ve been, something comes and sets me back. I can feel the metaphorical kicks to my stomach, my spine as I am curled up in a fetal position. I am vibrating, perched delicately upon this idea of wholeness, only to feel the stitches being pulled from my sides, feel the broken ribs piercing through my heart reminding me of all the times…
All the times I have stood up against a giant only to walk away with my head hung in failure. All the times I have wanted to believe in love and only come away with empty hands stained red as I try to stop the bleeding. All the times there has been this voice in my head that tells me I am unworthy, that I will never be the person I want to be, that I will never walk away unafraid and unscathed. Sometimes I think I feel too much.
I can feel myself caving in under the weight of the words every time a pretty boy tells me I am only good for one thing, every time I close my eyes and remember his hands on my skin for the first time and the last time, every time I see those eyes in my dreams that now belong to a boy who is buried under six feet of ground that is growing up around him. This is a living metaphor for beauty rising out of death, the world awakening after it has been shunned and ripped apart.

But ever since he left, ever since I first felt the taste of desperation and please love me on my tongue, ever since I learned that feeling something is preferable to feeling nothing and even the bruises are an angry man’s way at muttering a prayer, I have felt myself becoming skin and bones.

There is a shelf in my closet belonging to clothes that no longer fit me, are baggy when I try to pull them over my hipbones, that sit crooked on my shoulders.
I am dissolving.

In the very same way I am sitting in a tub of water praying for purification I don’t know if I have any right to ask for. How many times can you say the words Father, I have sinned and still expect forgiveness to come like deliverance to come like an answer to every prayer I’ve ever prayed, even the ones that are an embrace and a thrust apart in the same breath, I love you and I hate you intermingled into one raspy sound.

How many times can you wear another man’s weight upon your shoulders and claim it as your own? I am hunched over, my shoulder muscles separating from the bone because of all this weight I’ve forced upon them.
Someone told me after the funeral that energy is neither created nor destroyed, only changed forms. It was meant to be an encouragement, and in some ways it was. Because after that moment I felt him everywhere, in the trees and the mountains and the puddles that whispered back to me the reflection of a girl collapsing in. But I also began to wonder if the weight I’ve been carrying isn’t mine at all, just transferred in from other people because it can’t be destroyed.

It sits upon my shoulders, falling onto the first strong branch that awaits its arrival. Maybe I am the girl standing with her hands raised to the winds, collecting anguished fragments of brokenness that settle on my hips and crack my ribs with every breath I breathe.
From down the hall I can hear them, dancing in the kitchen or playing another round of Monopoly with the radio on because these days the silence is deafening. I understand it because these days the sound of my own heart is strong enough to send shivers up my spine.

I am rubbing my skin raw, turning it red with unspoken apologies and guilt that is not mine to carry but I hoist it onto my shoulders anyway, swallow it back like I am downing a shot of whiskey, a twinge as I feel it settle inside.

This is the only way I know how to survive.

I wonder how many times you can pray for mercy before God becomes tired of listening.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I have always belonged to the light (National Poetry Writing Month)

April is National Poetry month and this year I have the privilege of joining some amazing writers in participating in Napowrimo, or national poetry writing month. Basically the goal of this is to write one poem every day for the month of April
It has turned out to be challenging. Most of what I've been writing has been squeezed into small bits of time, rushed elegance.
Many, if not all, of the poems I've written this month (6 so far) have been dedicated to a person. A guy in an interview I read, someone I met over lunch, my younger self, someone who changed my life.
And by writing these poems, carving out these moments for elegance and beauty and poetry, dedicating them to people, it feels almost like a spiritual practice, like for a brief moment in time everything else falls away and there is just me, and God, and love and beauty.
So while this month is shaping up to be a challenging one, it is always turning out to be rewarding.
This is something I wrote today, unedited and lacking in proper elegance, but none the less poetry
This is my heart speaking poems

He told me my eyes looked brighter today
I imagined kaleidoscope colors spinning like a pinwheel
reminded of six years old and peppermint ice cream
of the days before my light was stolen and I forgot what it means to shine
I felt lighter today
felt hopeful, washed in grace and love
like sunbeams peeking through my ribcage after a long winter
like purple tulips and rain on the tin roof, washing away my yesterday and new life blooming
I felt the breath today
reminded of the release, finally feeling peace settle on my skin
it whispered to me softly, like I've always been in the light
and maybe I have
The night nips at my heels, trying to pull me in, calling my name
But let this be my battle cry, my sweet release, my remedy
"I have always belonged to the light"

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Beautiful - a 5 minute Friday guest post

She is amazing. She is beautiful and intelligent and witty and on the bad days she sends me John Green videos. She is one of the most wonderful people I've ever had the privilege of meeting.
This girl is so amazing I would read her grocery lists (On occasion I have!) so I knew anything she would write would be fantastic, so when I asked her to write for 5 minutes straight about being a writer, and when she gave me this amazing little jewel of work, I was overjoyed. I was even more excited when she agreed to let me post her 5 minute, unedited blurb on my blog.
And Sami - thank you for letting me have the privilege of sharing your words with the world. You are amazing, and I am so honored I have the privilege of calling you my friend

"I first became acutely aware of my body image in eighth grade, right before graduation. Lori Anne wrote in my yearbook, "you are the skinniest girl I have ever met," and I knew she was serious - but I also thought her crazy.
I had not thought of myself as skinny since hitting puberty. I danced and had thighs, and if you dance and have things, you are not skinny, at least not when you are young and competitive. I felt lost between accepting a complement and denying its reality and confused about what was reality. Around then, I also had these fancy portraits taken in a brown dress, and my parents couldn't believe I looked so old. I couldn't wait to not look so young. I loved it. I remember looking at the huge portrait when it was hung, and thinking, I look like an adult.
 And I felt like it too, then. If you look like an age, you feel that age, if only for a few moments. I guess it's the same with beauty. If you look like Beauty, you know, with a capital B, like the societal type, then you feel like it - but when you're just you, and the subtler lowercase beauty, it's not so easy or automatic to feel."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Writer

I haven't done five minute Fridays for a while, but today my friend dared me to write about today's word, and I agreed. And while it's too messy and unruly for my perfectionist self, it is mine.
Today's word was writer, and here's what I think of when I hear that word

There are days when I don't feel like a writer
days when I trip over my metaphors and choke on the words that I am trying to birth and every attempt to get this story right comes out forced and complicated
There are days when it feels like I am barren, like there is nothing left inside of me. These are the days when writing feels more like a curse than a blessing. I wish I could turn off the flow of words that are in my brain.
Being a writer is insanity, it's humbling and awe inspiring and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be welcomed into this secret community of other budding writers
Being a writer is frustrating, and I have quickly become my own worst critic. It is constantly tripping over shoelaces and tying up loose ends, maybe just as much as it is birthing this precious story I have been given
Carrying this story is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Drawing on my personal experiences to tell this story that I feel so profoundly inside of me is something that is taking more courage than I thought I possessed
Today is one of those days when I don't feel like a writer.
I am letting the world happen to me, despite wanting to control every unruly bit. I am falling in love with music and jotting love poems down onto napkins and staying up too late reading a book that makes my soul sight "Yeah, I've been there."
But I think maybe this is all part of becoming a writer too.
If I want to stand on my own two feet I must expand as much as I withdraw, must push out as I bring in. It's a gentle give and take, a craft I am still learning
But despite it's hardships, it is a craft I am proud to be a part of, something so beautiful and vital to my survival
Writing is like breathing, like wild chaos, like a beautiful disaster
and I am in love with every minute of it