Tie-dye flowy skirt, no bra, and a dinner of raw, vegan zucchini manicotti. Hell yes, I am effing earthy.
What is the image I’m portraying to the world? What is the face I am showing you? Is it who I really am? Is there really even a me? Am I a fixed point in reality or more of an amoeba swimming in this drop of pond sludge, constantly flailing and bending and meeting and growing and absorbing what I feel in the world around me? Am I a thing or am I just a collection of my experiences and memories? What is me?
Am I the picture of a smiling girl with her arms thrown around your neck? Am I a West Ham pendant? Am I the tears that oh so constantly roll down my cheeks to be collected on your lips in the early morning as we lie in bed? Am I the loud, blundering streets of Shanghai? The noise that I grew to love? Am I a quiet summer evening in Des Moines? Am I the children that I’ve met or the child that I used to be? Am I the expectations of my future?
Am I the words in a journal that is too infrequently used? Am I your fingers slowly running up and down my kneecaps? Am I the words that I tell you or am I the actions that I live? Am I what I want to be or what I fear I am? Can I build myself? Is there an instruction manual or did I come already fixed in stone? What if my instruction manual only comes in French or Chinese? I haven’t studied enough.
Can I be what I say I am? Can I build myself from the ground up, simply by saying the words frequently enough to convince the world and convince myself? I’d like to build, but I’ve never been handy with tools. I’m a messy artist and I ask for plenty of grace. May I take control of my destiny but also relinquish that control to the present? I think thats what I’d like to do.
I’m begging to just be.
Its a bit windier than I thought it would be. Things are starting to pick up out there and I want to be doing the same. I feel like I’m in a fairy tale and I am so goddamn sure of a happy ending. More sure than I have ever been. I believe that love wins the day and I’ve felt that truth and beauty and honesty are the shields of heroes and heroines, not the weapons of fools. I believe that the sun will rise and set in dazzling colours over commonplace people doing commonplace things, with nothing more extraordinary or wonderful to do than love one another. I believe this to be true. And I have felt it.
But right now, the happy ending seems far away. In fact, I may only know it exists because of these glimpses I keep catching, reminders of old VHS memories. I haven’t reached the castle. I still can’t sing. The lost princess hasn’t been found. Its that moment in between. When the heroine wakes up from the idealism of her childhood locked in the tower or sequestered under the sea, but hasn’t yet found her freedom, hasn’t found a way to break the spell. It’s Rapunzel, having felt the grass under her feet and the wind through her long golden locks, only to be dragged back to the tower. It’s Cinderella, having danced with the prince, only to end up back in rags. It’s Pocahontas, having seen that peace is the only answer, but with Kokoum dead at her feet, what can peace really mean?
It’s Aurora. Briar Rose. It’s that moment, that birthday. One year older and suddenly, you start to see that the world isn’t so gentle and benign. The cottage in the woods was an illusion. A trick invented by three jovial old fairy godmothers with only the best of intentions, but a trick all-the-same. The real world existed right outside the edges of this forest, and I didn’t know it. There was pain and suffering, a kingdom sick at heart and losing hope, but I lived on my days with Flora and Fauna and Merriweather, blissfully unaware.
But the outside world broke in, as it is wont to do. And the forest rejoiced as it did. The beauty and love and diversity of this great big globe came spilling in along with love and hope and dreams I’d never imagined. The birds sang, the animals danced, and my heart felt light to greet this brand new world that had been waiting for me to awaken. It was a moment made of gold. But the outside world brought along its shadows, its thunder, and its storms as well. The old raven came into my gilded forest and chanced upon my hidden bower. His old wings rewarded those sixteen long years of searching for my naivety and he reported my location to the darkness. In one day, I went from child to woman. In one day, life brought me love and Maleficent.
And thats where I remain. The kingdom has fallen into a slumber akin to death. And you don’t get to read the end of your own story, so I can’t know if they’ll awaken. I shake their shoulders, shout into their ears, beg and plead for them to open their eyes. Wasn’t I just entranced with this wide world’s beauties? I swear, I just felt the thrill of the unknown. But now, I feel alone. I’m in a kingdom full of the sleeping dead and I’m the only one to walk its darkened cobblestones. It is only my tears which darken its dirt. And I’m tempted by these spindles. By the promise of creation, or at least escape. Its glowing green and I know, oh I know it must be bad. But its the only thing alight in this place. And that makes it hard to ignore.
And you? Where could you be? We were supposed to meet at the cottage in the glen, but is that even real? When I opened my eyes, did I blink that cottage of my childhood innocence out of existence? How do I warn you, when I’m still so new to this world myself? I’m afraid you were trapped in the same darkness that lies over my kingdom, the same darkness that threatens to take hold of me. I’m afraid Maleficent will do worse than kill you. She’ll hold you captive and suck you dry. The life in your eyes, the spark in your words, the beauty in your fingertips; she will wait until you are empty and broken, until love is just a word you know. Then you’ll be released from the chains, but never released from the hell of your prison. You’ll wander the world, finding it just as asleep and empty as the darkness suggested. I’m afraid Maleficent will teach you to despair.
But should you despair? Should I? There is more to the story. I know its there. I can see that I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are so many pages left to turn. Just because they made the mistake of hiding me in the woods, doesn’t mean that the good fairies were wrong to believe. The world needs more people who believe. But I’m not allowed to skip ahead. I can’t ask whether Philip will find his way through this forest of thorns. It seems an insurmountable challenge when you’re in the thicket and can’t see an end. But I promise, oh God, I promise, there is an end. And if you keep fighting, maybe we can win back the kingdom. Maybe truth and virtue will be our shield. Maybe we all come to happy endings. Maybe. Only time will tell. And eighty-eight minutes is a lot longer than you’d think.
I just thanked God for hair products. And realized I’ve been taking my life too seriously.
Serious has its place. But so does silly, cocky, blasphemous, asinine, and irreverent.
So does happy. Life is meant to be lived, not mourned. Do something.
Thank God for hair products. Thank God I don’t have to wear a bra in public. Thank God for surprise thunderstorms and for laughter. Thank God for ridiculous second chances.
It’ll all be just fine.
Take time, take time.
In Sierra Leone, this phrase is the rough equivalent of “be careful!” If you trip over a loose stone, choke on a quick sip of water, or stumble over your words, someone is sure to caution you to “take time.”
It is very good advice. Don’t rush things. Don’t try to do too much at once. Slow down and think about what you are doing. Take the time to do what you want to do well. Don’t scrape your knee because you were in too much of a hurry to see the pothole in the path ahead of you. Slow down and be careful, not cautious per say, but careful. Full of care.
Things don’t happen overnight. Take time, because if you try to rush this, you’ll miss some very important things. And you could get hurt or do some serious hurting. Take time and be compassionate. Take time and keep looking, keep loving, keep living.
One right decision doesn’t undo a world of pain and suffering. And if you expect it to, you’re going to trip and fall at the beginning of the very long road to redemption. Love starts with the smallest things we do, but it doesn’t end there. Take time. Take time in trusting, in living, in hoping, and in loving.
If anyone has ever told you that the world is safe, if anyone promises you safety, run. Run as fast as you can. There has never been a deeper or more dangerous lie. The world may be many things, but safe it is not. Good? I certainly hope so. Beautiful? I’ve never doubted that. But safe? Not a rock, not a breath, not an atom is safe.
Its dangerous and rough. Its full of winds and storms. Even the sunshine can burn your skin. The frost which paints your windows can equally paint your fingers and toes. The rain which waters your crops could destroy them tomorrow. Your domesticated Fido is not so far from his lupine ancestors. We have no control over the rotation of the earth, of our path around the sun. I cannot change the moon or unleash the tides that could so easily destroy, if they shifted. The world is wild.
It is a child running dirty through a field of weeds and wildflowers. Its an undiscovered species waiting for science to bring it a name in an ancient tongue. It is fire and ice and wrath and gentleness. It is a mother. It is nothing at all. It is everything. You’d have to be daft to not be simultaneously terrified and delighted.
Its not safe. Its not prepackaged. Its not predictable. I can control it, to some degree. I can direct the stream in the valley that is my life. I can choose to inhale beauty and exhale compassion. But I cannot make the world safe. And god forgive me if I ever tried.
Today, I feel beautiful. I haven’t showered yet or even brushed my hair (like I do that anyway), but its more of an inside feeling beautiful. Beautiful mixed with a little (or a lot) bit of sassy.
I can tell my anxiety is lurking right around the corner, I feel it a little bit in my gut. But it is a warm, sunny day. And I think I can be the winner right now.
Good morning, world.
Life is based around what you perceive to be true. There is a thriving market in mirrors and hair dye for a reason. We feel like we should cover up, hide away, and pretend. For a culture that is so harsh on the dreamers, we sure live in a world of make-believe. So I’m trying honesty. Because if you can’t tell the truth, its too easy to get lost. Maybe its not the important truth. I was not a spy in the Cold War. I made no money off the Enron scandal. Its not so much that I have anything to hide. I just have a whole lot of things to not tell. The silliest, littlest things that I’m afraid of. The dirty laundry I don’t want to air. The cuts and scars and flaws and failings that I judge to make me inadequate. From the nonsensical to the serious, these are things which seem true to me. Even if only momentarily so.
- I’ve spent a year being far too needy and reliant on a boyfriend who is far too good to me. He is patient and kind and loving, but I have too often relied on him to carry me rather than testing my own wings. Love starts with me.
- I am afraid of abandonment. Its my second greatest fear. I’ve lost too many good friends to feel comfortable getting too close. Yet, I have an overwhelming desire to merge my life with that of others.
- I have an undying belief that life is meant to be shared. Whether that is with one person or fifty of your closest soul mates, we’re made to live life together. That is one thing that cheesy Christian community gets right. No one is an island. Stop pretending you don’t need approval, love, or mutual co-existance.
- My greatest fear is inadequacy. I’ve lived my life in the shadows of some of the most beautiful, talented, incredible people. I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything, but I’ve never really known myself either. I’ve always been the _____ of someone else. Which is wonderful. But also leads me to question, if I were seen for how I truly am, what would I be? Would I be enough?
- I love hats. And I wish people would wear them more often. Big floppy ones for women. Anything but fedoras for men. Please. Not fedoras. You look creepy.
- I used to love trench coats. Now I just think that everyone wearing one is probably a flasher.
- I still hate this program and a lot of things about life in DeKalb. I still wish I wasn’t staying. I can appreciate all that I’m learning and find the many many good aspects of being out here. But it isn’t where I want to be. And I feel devastatingly guilty about that sometimes. I wonder if home is a place you create or if there are genuinely some places where you are meant to be. I always wonder if I should just try harder or if I should just come home.
- I usually know the right thing to do, I just rarely know how to do it.
- Writing is my outlet. Whether or not these silly words mean anything, they bring me peace.
- I have no idea how to make friends. My closest friends have come into my life because we’ve bonded over doing things together. Now that I find myself on my own, I struggle to know how to recreate those experiences. Or if I even should. There are some people I really want to reach out to. But how does friendship, how does love begin?
- My life can be a roller coaster. And I’m learning how much work I have to put in to make myself okay. Its a constant process and I hate that. But I can’t deny it.
- I often think my pain isn’t justified. And some of my greatest moments of strength have come in saying “this was not okay.”
- I find people painfully beautiful. I want to stop people I pass on the street and ask if I can just look at them. I love photographs of people. I love paintings. I wish I was an artist that could capture what I see. I want to hold people close, even for a moment. Because they are just so goddamn lovely.
Kurt Vonnegut tells me that I’ve only got to be kind. He’s right. But I have to be kind to me first. This depression and anxiety is eating away my life. Its ruining what I hold dear. And its slowly sapping my spirit. I’m in a tunnel and I don’t always know the way out. And its frustrating. Maybe honesty is how I keep digging.
Good black ink draping its way over my white-lined pages. Words winging their way into freedom. A plain black ball point is the key to my birdcage and my words are dandelion seeds, blown by my lips and carried by the wind.
Double exposed photographs carry twice their weight in beauty. Maybe even more. Some strange blend of science and religion merges one and one into one. Sometimes this alchemy makes one and one merge into many. Captured human faces feel sacrilegious, as if it were possible to capture the divine.
A ray of sunlight streams in my window, obscuring my mirror. And for the first time, I see clearly. This mirror on my wall and in my heart is far too distracting, its shine convincing me of false reality. Its not just appearance, its flawed reflection. Maybe broken mirrors don’t bring bad luck. Maybe they remove luck altogether.
Books and books and books. Packed in boxes, closeted in my imagination. Thousands and thousands of pens creating a world. The ultimate expression of hope. Printers and publishers pouring out their ink blot pages, each offering an individual rorschach test. It doesn’t matter if we see the same thing. All that matters is that we’re both looking.
Words and words and words fill this cavern in my chest. its not a heart that beats inside me, it is words. Written, heard, read, spoken. Words beat faithfully beside my lungs. And those words pump blood to the tips of my fingers and toes.
Beauty is my new religion and it is practiced at the altar of humanity. I see divinity reflected in each passing face and no creative sacrifice could be displeased with my fascination. heaven means nothing if earth is ugly.
pour me a glass of wine, dip this chalice in the nearest ocean. and let me feel. let the waves and the words roll over me and let the sunlight and your lens be my only reflection. this may be salt water. but i intend to drink deeply.