Old Friend

Hello old friend.

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at you.
I’ve seen you, from the rear view mirror,
Or maybe I’ve glanced upward when leaving a job that
Makes me tired.

The craters in your face, like wounds,
Make me wonder how much you’ve seen.
How much you have looked at, studied.
Witnessing things that have made you tired.

I’m sorry you’ve seen so much.
I’m sorry we’ve made you look at us hurt.

I know the feeling of being forced to witness unbearable hurt.

But in a way, I am jealous.

I am jealous of you because
Although you see so much bad,
You get to see all the good.

What is it like to see two people
From far away
Who’ve never met
Never spoken
Never known one another’s mind

What is it like to see them lie down
And look at you
To look and wonder at the same time?

What is it like to watch two people
Who do not know each other hope
For the same good you get to see?

What is it like
To witness that most human thing
Of wondering if someone is looking
At the same thing you are?

To see them love something
The same way?

That must be what keeps you around
When the world gets ugly.
It hurts to keep looking
But you can’t stop.

I don’t think I’d be able to look away either.

Spots of Light

you remember that night when
I was sick to my stomach and the world made me sad
and you held me until my wet, tired eyes could finally rest.
and you touched my face and intertwined your hands with my hair
and I don’t know if you knew that I was still awake.

you don’t remember that I can remember.

I remember getting the feeling that you wished
my hair was actually my hands.
I remember peeking through my hands
to see you looking at me.

and I remember how much I could feel.
not the sickness in my stomach or the hurt the world caused.
but I could feel electricity in my spine
as you held me
after such a long time of feeling nothing.

but I never told you.

now you are so far away but when you call me
to ask me what kind of juice to buy
or to just sit in comfortable silence until I’m tired
I feel like you are next to me in the front seat of my car
looking out to the world that hurts to see
but it’s so beautiful.

and when we speak
it’s like we’re counting each individual spot of light in the sky
like we are never going to be done
because there will always be more

and while sitting in those front seats
I’m waiting for a dying comet to come along
to let me know that it’s okay to tell you how numb I wasn’t.
I look at you like the way you might have that one night
when you thought I wouldn’t remember.

sometimes when I look at you I swear
I can see you searching for that same comet,
but I can’t tell if it’s real or because I want you to.

so I won’t tell you.

because this is not as easy as I’ve seen in the movies
and it’s not cute or romantic
but it hurts.
but not in the way the world hurts me.

because although it hurts to feel these things
it is a privilege to be hurt in this way
not because it feels like I can’t breathe
or because it feels like my legs will give out beneath me

but because in those moments
when I might catch you looking at me
it feels like the electricity in my spine.
the kind I felt that night when all I did was cry.

I know you were probably never looking for the same thing I was
and that you simply loved the way the night looked
from the front seat of my car.
but it was a privilege to want something that bad.

I hear all the time
that wanting something you’ll never have
is a waste of time. of energy.
of feeling.

but I don’t feel like this is a waste
because now I know what it feels like
to love so hard you ache.
to love so hard it feels like you can’t breathe.
to love so hard that suddenly the world doesn’t hurt you
as bad as it used to.

so I’ll just sit in this seat
watching you enjoy the night
until you find something
that makes you feel the way I felt that time you held me.

even though I know you might not be watching me
or wanting me
or wishing my hair was my hands.

I will never tell you
any of this.
not a word.

because the comet never came.

Sunday Afternoon

I know that my heart is light and eyes are calm
I know my fingers are gentle and my spine is delicate
I know that when I want to be,
I am in no way fragile or small.
I know that I am a gentle force.

And even though I know these things
I still wonder why.

Why I’m never the one you call at 2 am
While looking at the ceiling, feeling sad but not knowing why.

I still wonder

Why I’m not the one you stare at
While my eyes are not looking.
Why my gentle fingers are not intertwined with yours
Or why my spine is not the one you trace
On a Sunday afternoon before falling asleep.

I know that someday I will be this person,
Not to you, but to someone.

I know this someone will look at me
The way I wish you would now.

I know that I will be everything.

I know this.

I know these things.

And even though I know these things
I still wonder why
You do not.

Student Death Letter

When I heard the distant sound of sirens,
when I saw the faint blue and red flicker
against the white sidewalks,
making the rooftops bleed,

When I was forced to peer out my window
and wonder what it was like
to see the night sky
for the last time,

I began to catch my breath.

I became silent enough
to hear the working parts inside of me
keep themselves alive.

I looked upward
and saw my breath leave my body
and I was there.
I was alive.

And I could see snow begin to fall
and I looked even closer
toward the home of each tiny flake that eventually
fell to the ground.

Each tiny piece of the sky fell onto my tired eyes
and I wondered if it was falling
so someone who would never see the sky again
could at least feel it one last time.

And I wondered if the pieces of the sky missed
being up that high,
watching everything below,
instead of turning red then blue.

Continue

I look at my tiny blue veins
Running from one end to another
And I think about how there really is no end
To the streams in my body.

They move constantly. They do not stop.
Even in the lowest of lows
They still run.

And I think about how we are like
These small blue endless rivers
Constantly moving. Never ceasing.
And we are the veins of this existence.

Maybe one day we will stop
Flowing. We will stop rushing.
But as for now we circle around this body
Creating life.

And we will continue to do just that
We will continue to run and move
Until this body becomes too dry and tired
To continue.

I Want You To Live

I don’t even like kids. They’re sticky and loud. Plus, if anyone deserves to be yelling in the frozen pizza isle at Wal-Mart, it’s me.

Regardless, I know that one day when I’m ready, I’m going to have one or two that I will really love. One of those might be a daughter, and I want her to know that life sucks. Life is, at times, the actual worst.

There are going to be a lot of times where you’re gonna hate it, it’s going to be ugly, you won’t like what you see on the news, what you see at school or on the streets. There are going to be days where you don’t like what you see in the mirror, where you wake up with a headache from crying all night, and there are going to be days where you wonder why it’s worth it.

And to you I want to say this; it just is.

I don’t think I could ever bring someone into this world knowing it wasn’t worth it. I’m still basically a kid myself, but when I’m ready, and when I’m sure, you’ll be here, and it will be worth it. There are some things I want you to know.

First of all, nobody cares. I went through the first 19 years of my life always wondering what people thought about me, what they thought about my clothes, my ideas, my music taste, my hair, my crooked teeth, and everything else. I worried that I had to change things about myself to make people like me. I liked that mustard-yellow turtle neck I found at goodwill, but I didn’t buy it because it was too “out there”. I liked my pink and yellow plaid converse that I threw away sophomore year of high school because they didn’t match with anything. I thought everything was so important. Everything was being watched and critiqued. I thought everyone cared, but they didn’t. I didn’t realize this until about halfway through my 4th semester of college. I found that I didn’t care about what shoes that girl was wearing, or how that other girl wore green parachute pants to class. I admired them for the very fact that they wore them with the confidence they had.

This isn’t just about clothes. I realized that I had not been myself. I didn’t know who I was and it wasn’t making me happy. I changed my standards, my values, my feelings, all for other people. I wanted to be like-able and cool. I was so quiet and reserved because I didn’t want people to judge me. I regret this. Please know that you don’t have to be quiet. You don’t have to hide parts of yourself that others may not like, because hiding them will make you not like yourself. Wear that turtle neck, don’t throw away those converse, and please stop caring so much, the people around you don’t care about these silly things as much as you think they do.

The second thing I want you to know is that you’re worth so much more than you think you are. You are the bees knees, my friend. There will be times when you look at the people around you, and think to yourself, they have everything I don’t. I wish I could be more like them. I wish I had what they had. Stop it. You are incredible. While those people may have things you don’t, you also have things they don’t. Every single person you meet on this earth will have characteristics or gifts that you admire, but never envy them, because you have your own. You won’t look like everyone else. Nobody looks like everyone else. You will have a different face, different body, a different sense of humor, personality, different everything, and that is okay. There are so many times where I wish someone could have told me this. It’s such a simple concept, but so difficult to understand at times. I was so insecure. I was angry at myself for having crooked teeth, I was angry because my hair was shorter than most girls’, I wanted to be funny and flirty and confident. I was so angry because I wanted these things that others had. Looking back, I know that if I had the confidence I have now, I would have been happier. I wouldn’t have starved myself to look a certain way. I wouldn’t have hated myself for the way I looked. I would have been patient. After braces and learning how to fix my hair, I gained some of that confidence. That didn’t solve everything, but learning to love myself began with being comfortable in my skin.

I had to fake a lot of confidence at the beginning. I had to pin down that voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough, and tell it to leave me alone. I began to realize that I wasn’t hiding those negative feelings, I was simply letting the positive ones be louder. You will need to remind yourself more often than you’d like that you are enough. You are more than enough. Knowing me, I probably strategically planned your existence, so you are definitely not worthless. Your Father in Heaven has also strategically planned your existence. He knew you, and you Him. He knew that you would be sent to this earth, and He gave you to me with a purpose. He misses and loves you, and will trust me everyday to remind you of that. Know everyday that you are worth more than you could ever know. You may not be like everyone else, but you are you. And that is enough.

Third, I want you to be kind. Being kind, truly, genuinely kind, takes guts. There will be people, events, experiences and ideas that will make you think being kind is not worth the trouble, but you will have to be patient. Someone who knows that this world is not perfect, and the people around them are not perfect, but shows kindness is something rare that this world needs more of. Do not underestimate how powerful this can be. There are people all around you, at school, on the sidewalks, sitting next to you on the train, living next door to you, teaching you, learning with you, that you will never fully know. They will be struggling with things you will never fully understand, so be kind. To everyone you see, meet, love, and learn about, be kind. They will see something in you that they haven’t seen in anyone before, because it is rare for someone to be kind even when they know not everyone will be kind in return. I haven’t mastered this yet, so I can’t tell you that I know everything, but I have experienced the kindness in others that has shaped most of who I am, and who I want to be. I have learned to be patient with others, and to be something the world needs more of, something that I want you to be.

There will be people who take advantage of this. They will see that kindness and take it as passiveness, naivety, and weakness. They will expect you to tolerate things that you shouldn’t, to accept things you don’t want to, and to put your feelings on the back burner. But being kind is not a weakness, so don’t let it be. Don’t let yourself become surrounded by negativity simply because you are a nice person. Be strong, and if you need to let people go who take advantage of that kindness, then let go.

Fourth, you can do anything. This world is too big for you to be what a fraction of this population thinks you should. There are so many different places to go, things to see, people to meet, and things to love. Find those things you love and be good at them. You can be and do anything. Be who you are, and who you’ve grown to be, but become part of something that adds to it. I want you to know that success comes in so many forms, so don’t let others tell you differently. Success is how happy you are with your situation, not the approval that comes from others. If you truly desire to become an art teacher, and you love it and put more of yourself into it than anything else, do it. If you put everything you have into running a fortune 500 company, do it. If you feel that being a mother and caretaker is what makes you successful, do it. Do not think you have to be one thing, either. I’m not only talking about a career, but don’t stop learning and growing because you have found something that makes you happy. The only thing you can take with you when you leave this earth is the knowledge you have gained, so acquire as much as you can.

You are growing up in a world that can be so cruel, one that will judge your decisions as if they know who you are, but you are the only one who knows you. There are still people who doubt women, who doubt your strengths and abilities, who have preconceived ideas of who you are, so prove them wrong. Be proud that you are a woman, because you have capabilities that are more powerful and important than some will lead you to believe. While you do this, support those around you who share this goal. You are not the only one on this earth with the worth and potential I described earlier. Help and support those who have no voice, and empathize with those who do not have the same privileges as you. Listen to and understand your brothers and sisters on this earth to help them be successful too. You can be anything, but make sure one of the things you decide to become is an ally, a friend. Someone with integrity.

The fifth and final thing I want you to know, is that you need to live. Although there are billions of people who share that same worth and potential, you are still so important. Do not shape your decisions around others. Do not let the actions of other people dictate how you feel or think. Do not build your life around other people. Build your life around yourself, and allow others to build with you. You are so much more than 1 out of 7 billion, so much more than a friend, an ally, you are so much more than just my daughter. Build your life around that. Let yourself feel everything, do not think that you have to hide what you feel because it’s not right, or because it’s not what people want to see. If you feel something, feel it like you’re meant to. Experience this world in all the good it has to offer. There are terrible things that happen, negativity, people who hurt others and you will see and experience things that will make watching unbearable, but remember to live for the good. Just because there is darkness does not mean there is no light. Do not rush through life to get to the next best thing. Every minute and the minute ahead of that is the next best thing. Go to that football game, to that dance, and dress up for spirit day because it might seem stupid but in that moment it’s something to help you get through it. It is so small, but it’s so much better than the negativity you will see. Go on that hike even though no one wants to go with you, go see that movie by yourself, ask that cute boy in your apartment complex out on a date, eat that fricken cupcake, dump that boy that doesn’t call you back, stop being friends with those people who do nothing but talk about others, learn to play that instrument you’ve always wanted to, go to that zumba class even though you dance like a white dad at a barbecue, raise your hand if you know the answer, join the intramural bubble soccer team, say yes to things that might scare you. This life is not meant to be optional. Yes, you get to make these decisions and choose how you live it, but you still have to live it.

Do not be afraid to jump into that pool. Yes, the water might be cold for a second, but it will feel better once you’re in there. The shock comes from the transition, not the pool. We fear things in life because we anticipate the shock of transitioning. That fear is so temporary. You don’t fear the actual pool, you fear the change. You fear the shock. Let the shock happen. It will be quick, and you will feel so much better after.

I am going to make mistakes, I am not going to know absolutely everything, but don’t let that define you. I will teach you all I can, and I will do everything I can to make sure you know your potential, but don’t rely on me to help you define exactly who you are. You belong to you, and you belong to God and no one else. Live with that knowledge. Live with kindness and confidence and courage, but please just live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Family Favorite

I was the good one. I followed the rules, kept quiet, did well in school. I was the peacemaker. I made sure I chose the right side, and I was never angry. I was always told I was calm, cool, and collected. I advocated for everyone to respect and cherish their parents, no matter the mistakes they made. Everything I did, I did it for them.

I began to hate it. I hated when I was mocked for being “perfect”. I hated the way others knew the truth but I was too stubborn trying to keep the peace. I hate that I denied the way I felt, and what I thought about myself was always based on the actions of others. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore.

I began to realize how imperfect I wanted to be. I didn’t have the desire to cause trouble. I didn’t want to be selfish, rude, or loud, I just wanted to stop pretending everything was alright.

The more I thought about the things I have experienced, the more I realized how much I had kept inside, and the more I realized how okay I wasn’t. From then on, I became reluctant to accept the decisions my family made. I loved them, but it angered me that I had to put up with it so often.

After my first year of school, I went back home. I loved being home, but I started to recognize patterns of enabling, guilt-tripping, and ignorance. I left for school early that summer because I knew if I stayed longer, I would get upset and say something I wasn’t supposed to. It was like I was a bottle of pop that had been rolling around in the back of the trunk, waiting to be opened. I decided not to open that bottle.

And then that December happened. While on my way home for Christmas, there was yet another conflict. I became upset, angry, sad, I felt everything all at once and I drove back to school because I was sick of putting up with it. After a phone call and a few guilt-trips, I made my way back “home”. Once again, what happened was swept under a rug. I overreacted, the way I felt was wrong, and I needed to support my family.

I went through the rest of my sophomore year of college not knowing who I was, or what I stood for. I made decisions I would never usually make, and surrounded myself with an attitude and with people who I never would have before. I had no idea what I was turning into. I was nothing like the person I was when I began school, and part of me missed that person.

It wasn’t until after that year of school, while I was at home that I realized who I wanted to be. Well, everything I didn’t want to be.

The way conflicts were handled in my home enabled them to happen again. The ones I love became the ones I tried to avoid. Nothing phased them, and if it did, it only lasted for the night. The next day, it was supposed to be okay, and we’d forget what had happened the day before. It was unhealthy in a way that it did nothing. There was no solution, because after a day or two, the problem no longer existed. Maybe they could see the problem,  but even if they did they were too scared to say it out loud. I was tired of being scared, so I began to pay attention. I was tired of ignoring the bad. It physically made me ache to hide it.

Once again, I was in the constant loop of other people making decisions that impacted me more than they could know. I realized during this time that I was almost not allowed to feel. Because when I did, it wasn’t right. I realized that this is why I stayed neutral. I stayed calm, and I swept it under the rug. When I felt, and when I refused to accept the things that were happening, I was disrupting the cycle. The conflicts lasted more than one night, because I refused to forget them.

I became the problem child.

I became so tired. I was exhausted. I no longer wanted to be the perfect daughter that hid evidence of wrong-doings. I no longer wanted to be quiet. I no longer wanted to keep the peace, because there was little peace to keep.

I was angry, moody, loud, and I overreacted. I punched holes in my door, and I yelled. There was a moment where I became so angry, I threw a bottle of vodka at the bookshelf in my mother’s room. I reacted to everything because if I didn’t, it would go unnoticed. And yet, I still felt guilty for it. In my family’s eyes, I was selfish, spoiled, irate. They were shocked. They didn’t like it. At first, I didn’t know why I was so angry all the time, and I felt guilty. I apologized for it. I was even told that rather than throwing the bottle at the bookshelf, I threw it at my mother. They made me feel as if nothing I said was valid. Nothing I said was true. That bottle never came close to my mother, and I knew it, but once again I felt guilt. I questioned everything. I felt like I was the one causing the problems.

After one event that I will never forget, I finally understood.

I had bottled everything up. I had lived my life following every rule, obeying every command, sweeping every little bit of anger, resentment, wrong-doing, and conflict right under the rug where I stood every day. The bottle was not just opened, but all of its contents were spilled, staining the rug where I hid everything.

How I lived was not normal. How my family lived was not normal. I loved them so deeply and maybe that’s why this frustrated me so much. I loved them and they saw that I hurt but they didn’t like the way that I hurt. They didn’t like that I couldn’t let it go. They didn’t like that it hurt me. I understood that I was a grown adult, but they didn’t understand that I was still their child.

So I left and I never went back.

And this is why I write about it. Because even still, after seven months, no explanation is good enough. No reason is a good enough excuse. They still don’t understand why I ached, why I hurt or why I was angry. They still don’t understand that my life is not meant to revolve around them. That’s not what we are here for, the ones we love so deeply and intensely, are not always the ones we are meant to hold on to. If we are lucky enough, we get to keep these people near us, but that’s not always the case. I wish so badly that I could, but I don’t think I can.

And there are so many days and nights where I fight that homesickness. Where I’m one button away from apologizing to my mother. Where I want to get in my car and go “home”. There are days where I think that I should have kept pretending to be the perfect daughter, that maybe I did deserve to feel that guilt.

But, there are even more days where I can breathe. Where I don’t have to choose sides, and where I can feel so much all at once. There is no bottle or rug. I am in an open space that I have the potential to fill with all of my anger, my sadness, my conflict, my wrong-doings, and every bit of feeling that I have. And although this room is crowded, and I keep filling it, nothing is hidden. Nothing is trapped or collecting dust or housing spiders. These things can breathe and so can I.

And no, I don’t have everything figured out. I don’t know the answer to everything. But I know that right now I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. I know that I am not being selfish for wanting to breathe. Although I love my parents, my mother who came back for me and my step-father who raised the bar so high, they still don’t understand, and I’m not sure if they ever will. I left. And I don’t think I will ever go back, because that is not my home.

I am my home. The space filled with everything that makes me is my home. I wish so badly that they could understand. That they could see how badly I was hurt. How I ached. That I don’t hang onto these things on purpose, or to cause guilt, that I don’t hang on at all. Theses things are permanently attached, because they made me. The things that have happened, everything followed me. When these things happened, as much as I tried to stop it, I was suddenly that twelve-year-old girl again, left, confused. And I think that no matter how old I become, these things will continue to be part of who I am and shape who I have yet to become.

I hate it. I hate knowing that the decisions of others have such an effect on me, but that’s just how it is. No amount of counseling, time, laughter, crying, or forgetting works. It never does. I don’t think it ever will.

I miss them. I miss the fun times when there was nothing to hide. When I did forget. I miss the smell of my mother’s baby lotion, and my stepfather’s hugs. I miss when I could look them in the eyes honestly.

But I miss me more. I’ve never had a chance to be the home that I needed, but I knew that I eventually could. I missed someone I never met, but I knew them deeply. I knew their desires, needs, and fears, and I missed them. I missed myself so much.

Maybe that is selfish. Maybe everything I swept under that rug should’ve stayed. Maybe I have absolutely no clue what happiness means. These things could all be true, but if they were I don’t think I’d mind. I am nowhere near being a perfect daughter, but I can’t remember the last time it felt so good to admit to having flaws. Because in my eyes, in the room filled with the things that make me a home, I am not selfish. I am not self-absorbed, self-righteous, or naive. I am homesick.

Not the kind that makes me miss the tiny blue house in the middle of nowhere, but the kind that hurts my chest when I think about losing myself again. I miss myself so badly, and I just want them to understand. The love I have for them will never go away, but the love I have for myself has grown. I don’t think I will ever go back, but I have found a home within myself.  As clustered and crowded and as messy as it may be, it is my home. I built it, and I’ve rebuilt it over and over again. I sometimes miss the homes that weren’t really mine, but I’ve missed me so much more, and I think I’ve almost found her.