I don’t have to remind myself that I Like you. I know I like you. I just don’t understand why everything feels different now. We’re treating each other like porcelain dolls. My grandmother used to collect porcelain dolls. Neat rows of little girls, each pair of blank eyes staring past you through a glass cabinet. They always had thick, feminine eyelashes; the kind of eyelashes Kelly Girandola had in the fifth grade. I always felt that the secret to her popularity had something to do with those eyelashes. Curling perfectly upward, each lash somehow distinct and seemingly in order; there were never any out of place strands, and you could be sure that when you looked into Kelly’s eyes it felt like she could see all of you. Then I overheard her call another girl in our class fat and I knew that Kelly’s perfect lashes didn’t have a goddamn thing to do with how well she could see.
unfinished, from January 5th, 2016:
Last month you knocked one
of our two matching champagne glasses off
the countertop and I cried bits and pieces.
I knew it had been mine but
you insisted, obviously,
the other one is yours
as you swept up the remains of
Then just last week, the first in
the heat in our apartment stopped working
I’ll never know why it took
seven days to call a repairman, we
kept our coats on inside, stayed
too long in the showers, and spooned
the dog for warmth
I began to get nervous finally after, all-night, I watched the
ice slowly grow to cover the
glass of my bedroom window, eying the
frozen sheet and willing it not to shatter
I feel like I can’t talk to anyone. The stakes feel high always, there is no point at which communication does not result in anxiety. I want to crawl into a hole. I’m going to. I’m going to run away. You told me once that maybe I should listen to my body, that maybe I was anxious for a reason. I was offended by the frustration and anxiety in your voice when you said it. I felt angry, knowing that what you were telling me in that moment was already a premature, weak excuse for your inevitable departure. Angry because I can never leave. I have spent countless hours in the company of others feeling trapped inside my body, wanting to tear out of the room, tear out of my skin, but finding myself unable to move, let alone breathe. Afraid to let myself think or feel anything else.
I’ve been hearing the urgency in your words echoing through my body lately, and there is an inescapable irony to this, that I might finally let you teach me something long after your disappearance.
That reminds me of another thing that I must admit you were completely, undeniably right about: Girls is a fucking brilliant show. I watched all five seasons in a matter of two weeks. In fact, Hannah is the only reason I find myself writing any of this at all right now. I tried to hate her but it was impossible, to be honest. For every moment in which I felt myself cringing at her behavior and audacity, I found myself unable to avoid the recognition that what I actually hated about Hannah were exactly the things I hated about myself. This all came pretty clearly to a head in one of the latest episodes (spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen it), which begins with Hannah completely ditching Fran on vacation, because she is utterly incapable of adequately communicating her unbearable desire to end the relationship. As I watched her back retreating into the woods running from Fran in the middle of bumblefuck nowhere, comprising an admittedly comical chase scene, I couldn’t help but be infuriated. Fuck you Hannah. Fuck you Hannah, for being an asshole. It didn’t take me very long to make the obvious connection that I wasn’t really angry at Hannah. But the surprising realization is that it wasn’t you I was really angry with in that moment either.
I was angry with myself. I was angry with myself for being weak. For wanting to run away. For wanting to shrink until there is nothing left of me in anyone else’s head. For wanting to retreat inward.
When I realized this I couldn’t hate Hannah anymore, and I couldn’t hate you anymore either.
I won’t say I’m over it but something about this moment felt important.
It just sucks that you’re the first person I want to tell about it to.
Bitterly but still cordially,
I like how I feel right now.
It’s a new feeling.
I’m always wondering how much time it will take for me to exist in the world before I exist with less guilt about how I exist. I’m always thinking that I just have to get to the next step; that I just have to make it to the next grade, and then it was I’ll finally stop feeling guilty when I graduate high school, and then when I graduate college, and when I get that first job, when I find the next job…. There’s always a place I’ve imagined where I don’t feel compelled to spend so much time thinking about all the reasons I’m failing at being a person in the world, and I lament the time it seems to take me to make progress with these steps.
I’ve come to realize there’s a lot of flaws in the logic of this feeling. There are a multitude of specific fallacies that have to do with why I think and feel that way, but there is also a narrow-mindedness about what it means to exist as a person in the world, and-
I don’t want to get lost in the description of that feeling. I’m already doing it. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.
I existed with the absence of guilt for the first time post working on job applications without having to go through the emotional labor of resisting the guilt and shame first. I didn’t have to convince myself that I wasn’t a failure. I just felt, as clearly as I write this now: It’s not going to happen overnight, and that’s okay.
But I also felt resolve, and sustained determination.
(I wanted a smooth transition here and maybe there will be one but I kind of like the way I shifted instinctually from explaining to someone else into talking directly to myself).
But you also can’t be so afraid to put in that work sometimes. Because you’re always thinking about all the reasons you will probably fail already, and your narrow-minded definitions of success and failure make the time you do spend putting in the work feel fruitless, which then recycles into justifiable proof of the likelihood of your potential failure, and it’s not. It’s not fruitless and it’s not failure. It never has been. You’re never going to be an Abby. “You know, Abby. went about getting her job like it was a job,” S. will comment with simultaneous praise for her ‘work ethic’ and resentment about his own struggle to work at that pace.
(you’re being an A.F. about it- finally gives in to trying the school lunch; requests to have the grilled cheese, eats just around the edge of the entire sandwich but never actually tastes the cheese and decides he still hate cheese and he will never try cheese again for as long as he lives. Footnote: “I’m proud of you”)
Tonight, the time spent searching- and thinking- was always going to be a part of the process, and it was always going to especially be part of your process- because it has always been the part you spent the most time on, and you’ve always been grateful to the after fact of having really taken that space to let yourself become slowly, to let the ideas marinate. You’re a slow human becoming, but it becomes you.
take a lot of time to part with your babies.
But don’t refuse to feed your babies at all. Your career is in it’s infancy. It needs some love and attention every day to grow healthy and strong. It’s never going to be easy and it’s never going to go any faster than it is for you. You don’t have to sandcastle because of it. Don’t be T.B. learning how to put together a puzzle, trying to fit a piece in one way and so frustrated that he flips over the whole board and all of his progress before that point with it, instead of taking the time to simply flip the same piece to another side, which would have helped him to discover he had actually been right the whole time. You are both T.B. and the puzzle piece itself; you can be right and still completely turned around at the same time.
It’s like the way you know you will write a book some day. You invest in that baby daily even when you’re not sharing it or making something from it. A book is not going to happen over night, and you’re in it for the long haul.
You’re going to get the right job someday, and you will make that space for yourself in the world.
Be proud that you went home after work, put on clothes as if you were going to an interview, applied your make up like you were going out for dinner, and took your self to a publicly visible place to invest the necessary time it’s going to take to make someday happen.
I want to focus more writing on mindfulness of the body. I’ve titled this category mindful education, which is inspired from an episode of the show Steven Universe (view an excerpt here). I’ve been trying practice this mindfulness as a way to work through writer’s block, as well as process through my emotional sphere in moments when it feels inaccessible to me.
I’ve got this one stim that I think helps me to center my awareness of my body. I rub my thumb and pointer finger together on my right hand and hold it just under my nose. I’ve been doing it for longer than I can remember, and right now is no exception. I like the smoothness of the rubbing sensation, so much that my pointer finger has a permanent callus from the repeated motion. I hold it close to my face because part of the experience is the smell; usually some combination of an oily iron or coppery smell mixed with the smell of tobacco smoke from my cigarettes.
My head feels cloudy and unfocused. That’s a feeling that commonly stresses me out, because it’s not always a feeling I can trust myself to work through. I know what I need to be doing, work wise, but I feel detached from a sense of passion and motivation.
I can feel my lungs fill up with smoke, which is complicated to be mindful of; the addict in me is full of satisfaction despite my awareness of its adverse consequences on my health. Additionally, because of the accident, I’ve been feeling chest pain around my lower right rib cage that is triggered any time I breathe deeply enough, including inhaling a drag from my cigarette.
I feel the warmth of my coffee on my tongue and as it travels down my throat; it soothes the harshness of the smoke so I take turns inhaling and sipping.
I feel the tightness of my watch around my wrist, and the metal clasp that digs into my skin as it rests on top of the computer. Wearing it is a weight that I’ve come to find comfort in; I feel secure knowing it’s there.
I don’t know if this is what I want to be writing right now, but I’ve been thinking about you this past week so this is what I’m doing now.
Every so often I check your facebook profile to see if you’re still making music and performing shows. I have little doubts that you will be, but I like knowing for sure. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t immediately feel salty about your latest post, since it felt like an intentional public jab, but I haven’t really dwelled in it since. I’m proud and happy to know that you feel like you’re making the music you want to make, and living your best artistic life as possible.
Which, brings me to another thing, sorry about that thing I wrote you last march. I was having a weird salty moment, I’ll even admit, borderline vengeful, and I wanted to reach out to you in a more appropriate and healthy way, but it turned into something kind of mean instead, and for that I’m very sorry. I still have my salty moments, which, I think everyone does, and I’m sure you do too, but in recent months I’ve started to laugh about it again; the salty and petty impulses, the roller coaster highs, the dramatic exits and entrances. Don’t get me wrong, much of that behavior was wildly unhealthy on both ends, but it also set me up to really think more deeply about how to create healthier and more sustainable romantic and/or platonic partnerships; consequently, being able to tangibly see the benefit of that reflection in practice within my relationships has allowed me to heal from our mutually inflicted damage, damage inflicted by my relationship with S, and damage that was sustained to my relationship with myself.
I don’t really know how this message will be received, if it is received at all. I don’t know where my desire to reach out to you comes from sometimes, because I don’t want or need anything from you, and I definitely don’t want to be your friend. No offense. But, you were an important human in my life at one point, and you will always retain that importance in that moment for me, and so I’m always going to care about your well being and wish the best for you. Unhealthy or not, I’m still grateful to have known you.
Yours, but really not,
From the 9th journal on pages 1881-1883:
“Notes from the Scene of the Crash”
As my mother quite dramatically claims, “these are the bruises from the safety features that saved her life,” while pointing to the outlines of where the seatbelt and airbags left mottled purple and green and blue impressions on my skin. I hate feeling like a spectacle. I suppose it’s no different from me claiming the figure shaped bruise left by the side airbag is the outline of whoever protected me from serious danger in the accident.
I grabbed my journal, my fanny pack, another bag that was empty except for my computer charger, and that red robe nicolas left in my car.
I sat on the ground in shock; unable to think of what to do.
One minute, I was almost there, almost at work, and the next I was spinning out of control, and next- impact. I think I dropped my phone, and I can’t remember picking it up but somehow it was back in my hand seconds later. I could remember Nic’s panicked chorus of “No no no no no” all blending together, but I couldn’t seem to speak words to him, it was like I forgot he could see or hear me entirely. I remember scanning the floor of my car for my journal, not being able to make sense of the disarray. My car is always some degree of mess, but never like this. Nothing was where it was supposed to be. I can remember registering the sight of my rearview mirror on the floor of the passenger seat side with shock and alarm, and I can remember thinking, “That’s not supposed to be there- why is that there? How did that get there?” I grabbed my fanny pack first and essentially fell out of my car onto the grass while opening the door, only to realize in panic that journal was not where it usually is in my fanny pack, and I did not hesitate for a single second to go back for it. I picked up the other items then, without any real regard to what I was holding and throwing over my shoulder, other than an acute awareness that nothing I had grabbed so far was my journal. I keep picturing the wreck of my car lighting on fire and somehow exploding and I scrounge more desperately for the green moleskiene. When I find it I move away from the car so fast that I practically fling journal down into a puddle of what I thought was dirty rain water, and later discovered, upon smelling the pages of my stained book, had actually been my car’s own internal fluids, pools of gasoline emptying out from the vehicle forming rivers alongside the road, like blood exiting a fatal wound. There’s no coming back from this. I stare and stare at my car trying to remember where my computer is and frantically trying to understand how it’s gone missing.
I can’t feel my body, and I don’t care, if I had remembered where my computer was in time before the EMTs had gotten there, I would’ve been back to the car without another thought again.
I care about my life, I care about my body, but my writing is also my body; it’s the way I feel most alive, and there’s not much I wouldn’t do to protect that. When I realize where it is, the EMT’s have to fend off my repeated insistence that I go back for it, I beg them to let me grab it, I refuse to let anyone else grab anything for me. The EMT lifts up my left arm and I register there is pain there; I look down at my upper arm where he’s gently lifting and only see purple. I can still only think about my computer however, and I insist again that I need it; he promises I will get everything back but I can tell he doesn’t understand and I don’t believe him and when he goes to lift up my other limb and I can see that the elbow is suddenly twice the size of what it’s supposed to be but I don’t feel it all so as soon as I look away I’ve already forgotten about the purple egg swelling out from my right arm and I’m already asking for my computer again. I feel frantic and unwilling to be anything but frantic, I answer their questions hurriedly because I’m just trying to get to the part where I get to find my computer. Jen’s in the background gasping at the injuries as the EMT is still lifting and shifting my arms and legs. Someone asks me if I hurt my lip too and I say “what?” with no understanding of why I’m being asked that question and they inform me that I have blood on my mouth. I touch my lip but I don’t feel any pain. Jen asks if I want her to grab anything but I don’t want her going anywhere near my stuff so I stutter instead. I beg for my computer all through being lifted onto the stretcher, and then carried and lifted again into the ambulance. As we finally drive away, I am still unable to process the growing distance between me and wreckage.
Nicolas is on his way to meet me at the hospital but I am terrified he will get into an accident. I want to text him but I don’t want him to look at his phone. I wish for him to be in the ambulance with me but I am glad he is not, I am glad he was not in my car, and I am glad he was not there, even though none of this makes logical sense, because he was never going to be in my car on the way to work with me anyway. I am glad I was the only one.
I alternate between fear that Nic will not find me safely, fear that I will never see my computer again, and a disorienting numbness about what was and is happening around me. The man in the ambulance is talking to me, lightly joking around, probably trying to make me feel comfortable but I look at him like I’ve never seen another human being before, I don’t want him to be talking to me, he is not Nic and not my computer and has access to neither and therefore I can’t make sense of anything he is saying to me. I wonder briefly about how Nic would interact with him if this was him instead and I decide he would probably be far less rude with me and I decide I also am still not going to start making small talk with strange man now.
I call Nic instead.
Wait, no. That’s not the order. That’s not right. I called Nic first, and I called Nic the second I was in the ambulance, and then I had the thoughts about the man sitting next to me.
I realize more clearly in this moment- though I’ve been considering it the entire time I’ve been writing- that I’m undeniably an unreliable narrator. Nothing is untrue, except, for quite possibly, the exact order of events, which remains frustratingly elusive. I vacillate in certainty between what I actually grabbed first from my car; I left out entirely that I also grabbed the kindercare summer manuals and threw them in the grass behind me (because godforbid they blow up with my car), I believe I dropped my phone in the grass again when I first emerged from the wreck, and I remember now that there was a period of time that I wasn’t on Facetime with Nic, where he called my boss, which is the whole reason she arrived on the scene to begin with. There are many things I know for certain, visuals and smells and sounds and feelings, but the chronological happening of each memory is not one of them. The fragments seem to reorder and blend and rotate around and I know that they don’t make sense practically speaking, logically speaking, but they make a different kind of complete sense to me, even as they shift and merge; they make sense to me because they shift and merge. And even as everything reorganizes, everything remains just as true as it was from the first time I began to write all this down.
I am afraid often to admit my own unreliability because I don’t want it to deter from what I know and feel to be true. I’m realizing being an unreliable narrator does not have to make truth inaccessible.
I wish now that I knew who the man was that called 911. I can’t even remember his face. I wish I could’ve thanked him but it didn’t occur to me until much later. How did he feel for the rest of that day? Did he talk to anyone about it?
I’d be really interested in re-writing this to actually have references from diving into the wreck. I’m intrigued by the parallels I can find here, starting with journal and the. Book of myths.
Things I said that mattered today:
– to the girl who cried because she missed her baby brother: “It’s okay to miss people sometimes- we have to miss them to know that the time we do spend with them is special. Think of how excited you will be when you do finally get to see him. You could only ever miss him this much because you love him so much.”
– To the friends of the girl who didn’t want to talk about why she was crying: “It’s okay if she doesn’t want to talk about how she feels right now. Sometimes we don’t always know how to explain how we feel and why. It’s okay if she needs space- she’ll talk when she is ready to talk about it.”
– To the whole class, on “bad guys” immediately following a visit from a local cop who came to talk to them about his profession: “I want you guys to know that no one is ever all bad. Just because someone gets in trouble, especially with the police, does not make them a bad guy. Sometimes people don’t make the right choices, or they are unfairly punished, or both. And this doesn’t make them “bad guys”- just like how when you guys get in trouble, it does not make you bad kids, nor have ever thought about any of you as bad kids”
– To the boy who didn’t know how to put back a puzzle he took out and scattered across the floor: “this is called an edge piece. They outline the whole picture. Pieces with two edges are called corner pieces. There are always four corner pieces. The first step to putting together any puzzle is always gathering and connecting the edge pieces to form the outline”
– To the boy that tripped and fell over the carpet and scraped his knee: “it’s okay to cry sometimes when we hurt. I know how you feel, sometimes, I cry too.”
I took this selfie the other day and remembered that there was a time when I believed my face was unattractive unless I was smiling. I felt like I needed look palatably cute and unfailingly happy, and that both of these things were inherently tied to my femininity. I don’t know exactly at what points I began to shift in thinking but I realized eventually that abandoning my smile in photographs didn’t mean abandoning my femmeness, and that it is okay to publicly serious individual.
I realize as I write this that the shift itself isn’t just about a change my self-image, but a shift in my attitude towards what aspects of my personality I wanted to present to the world. I am no longer afraid to be everything I can be and always looking for more; I actively work on a daily basis resist and deconstruct various ways I’ve been conditioned to shrink as an person, in body and mind.I have recognized that a key piece of this process is to allow my identity to be more publicly vulnerable; to have this practice witness by others and be honest about myself; to encourage others I encounter to be more radically honest in response. I have not only begun to understand how to occupy/take up more space in ways that are authentic to my identity but also how to be a facilitator of creating space for other individuals to occupy as well.
So this is me these days. I exhaust myself on a regular basis but I love the process too much to ever give up on it. And so, I do take myself seriously. I take my work seriously, I take my art seriously, I take my writing seriously, and I take my selfies seriously. I refuse to hide any longer.