- "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London
Thursday, January 31, 2008
One of the characters commented that women always change their hair when changing something else about their life. I think of this as I stand before the aisle of boxes of possibility. I choose ruby red. It occurs to me that my chameleon tendencies stretch much further than my hair. Tuesday night I dye my hair this new bold color.
Even now the color has begun to blend in a bit, and I know that over the next couple of days it will seem quite ordinary, but for now, I revel in the brazen fiery brightness of it. I like that it is different. I like that it is bold and daring. I like that it is a color, a personality, a way of thinking, that I've never tried before. I like that it matches exactly how I'm feeling.
My friend's mother died on Tuesday morning. She was 99. She had led a full, happy life and had passed believing there were flowers growing upon her bedspread, which she gently plucked and tasted and showed to her daughter. They had been together for her final breath. They had been together through it all.
We gathered at their house last night to sit Shiva. We didn't know anyone else there aside from a few select family members and of course, each other, our coworkers. We drank and ate and laughed until our stomachs hurt. We talked about how we had become a family.
It's funny how that happens. After high school, I had sworn that I would never find friends like those I had made there. I would never feel that same sense of belonging with anyone. I would never create another family that I loved so tenderly, so whole heartedly, so unconditionally.
My first real job was in a small office. I made friends there, of course, but I never understood the mentality that your work friends could become a second family. I didn't feel connected to them. I didn't feel as though I belonged. The office was almost always silent except for the sound of keyboards and my own voice answering calls I did not care about. We had discussions about current events and weather and a few details of our lives, but overall, there was nothingness. There was obligation to get along with the people I worked for.
Today marks my seventeen month anniversary at my new job. The friendships I've made there are why it's been seventeen months. I see those women more than anyone else in my life, than my own real family. I tell them everything. They tell me everything. Something wonderful has been created. It continues to create, to grow, to evolve into the kinds of bonds I didn't think I'd ever experience again. We have become more than coworkers, than even friends. We have become a family.
My best friend there, the one I open the school with each morning, the one I have discussed every detail of my life with, the one I am jokingly married to, is the sister I have always wanted. We are currently beginning the process of looking for a house to buy together. We are endlessly excited, and spend a great deal of our time making plans of things we want to buy, colors we want to paint each room, parties we want to have. It will be a new beginning for both of us. It will be a color palate, bold and daring.
Sometimes I wonder if we are moving too quickly, if seventeen months really is enough time to know that we can live together happily, if it really was meant to be, as we so often say. But then I think about times like last night, when it felt so perfect, when we felt like family. I think about posts I've written recently, about promising myself I wouldn't shy away from opportunities simply because there is a slight possibility that they won't work out in the end. I think about how every morning I am grateful to see her, to have her by my side, to have someone I feel as comfortable talking to as not talking to. I think about how the plans we are making thrill me more than any I've made on my own in a while. And I think about the way it really might just be something that was meant to happen.
I think about my ruby red hair, and the forceful tone it sets for my life. Bold and daring, we enter something new, as coworkers, as friends, as family.
Monday, January 28, 2008
This morning I passed you on the street, as I have many mornings, walking through the darkness that consumes us just before the dawn. I lifted my face to the bitter cold of the early morning winds. I smiled at you. I watched you intently to see if you'd look up, if today would finally be the day you acknowledged me as I passed. You didn't. You continued to look at the ground. You averted your eyes from me.
And I thought, how funny to live in a world where people are afraid to say hello. How funny that you should be afraid of me, simply because we haven't met, simply because we are strangers. How funny that we should spend our lives fearing the unknown.
Surely it is a miracle that my faith in people, my trust in their goodness, has never gotten me into any serious trouble. I don't have what one of my friends dubbed "good girl intuition," where you know you shouldn't be somewhere, where being there makes you feel unsafe. I have no problem walking through the darkness on almost entirely abandoned streets to get to work each morning. I have no problem walking through neighborhoods that some of my friends wouldn't even risk driving through. I have no problem being somewhere in the middle of the Himalayas at 2am, barefoot, with people I'd only met a few hours before. I feel safe in the world. I feel safe with strangers.
Where I don't feel safe is inside my own skin, a thought that only occurred to me for the first time this morning. Why is it I can trust a stranger not to hurt me, but I can't trust anyone enough to love me? Why is it I can have faith in everyone but myself? Why is it I can see goodness in everything and everyone except for the woman looking back at me in the mirror?
I've had friends ask me these same questions before, but I suppose it's one of those things that never really resonates until I come to question it myself, until I'm ready to face the truth. The truth is, I have never once believed in myself. I have never once had enough faith in myself to reach for the things I want, to lay my heart on the line, to be the kind of person people seem to see me as. I have never once seen what they see.
It's a difficult task, to step outside oneself, to understand the full scope of who you are, how you fit into the world. It is an art I have not mastered, although I try desperately to gain such a perspective. It has been, and continues to be, the greatest struggle of my life. I work hard to accept myself for who I am. It takes all of the strength within me to just breathe, to know that I am doing my best, to understand that sometimes that's enough. It takes every stretch of my imagination to believe that what people are telling me about myself is true. It takes everything I have to be even slightly comfortable inside my own skin.
I have agonized over why I am like this, assuming that by finding the root of the problem, I would be able to fix it, assuming that confidence was as simple as patching up a wound from the past. But it is not that easy. There is no moment I can point to and say there. There is no person I can point a blameful finger at. There is nothing that can save me but my own determination.
And so I resolved this morning to begin that arduous journey towards self acceptance. I resolved to breathe, to give myself credit where it's due, to stop carrying around guilt and shame as though they were important things to hold on to. I resolved to unload the heavy burden of their meaning and make room for confidence and joy. I resolved to be the person who saves my life.
And years from now, if I were to pass this current version of me, that former version of me, I would not want to avert my eyes. I'd like to look up. I'd like to see goodness. I'd like to smile and say hello.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I remember the sound it made when it cracked against the ground. I remember the way the moment seemed to slow as I reached out my hand to snatch it out of the air. I remember the way it felt to just miss it, that feeling of impending doom, that knowledge that it would only be a few more moments before I was discovered, before I was in trouble.
I took the broken binoculars to my mother. I held them before her and apologized for taking what didn't belong to me, for not taking care of what didn't belong to me. I expected her to be angry for ruining something that was hers. But when I looked up into her eyes I did not find anger. I found sadness. A deep, profound sadness that I had yet to understand existed. The kind of sadness that comes only after someone has gone.
The binoculars were not hers. They belonged to her father who had died before I was born. They were all she had left of him. And I broke them. I broke the only remaining tangible object that she had, the only thing she could grip between her cupped hands and know that he had once held in just the same way. I took from her an important link to her past, an important gift that could never again be given. I ruined something from someone she loved.
A friend of mine once told me that she loved buying me presents because no matter what it was, no matter how hideous or ridiculous, I would love it. I would use it or wear it or display it proudly. I would cherish it as though it were everything.
And I realized that for me, it is everything. Those small little gifts, those cards, those books, those journals, those notes passed between idle moments during classes, those are my everything. Those are my reminders that I am loved. Those are my collection of me.
I think about this every time I am tempted to clean out my collection of material things, things I haven't touched in ages, things that have somehow traveled with me through all walks of life. I hold them in my hands. I wonder why I feel such a need to cling to every little scrap of paper, every little ticket stub and toy. I wonder why I, who cares so little about the typically materialistic world, feels such a need to hold onto these pieces of my life.
But the answer is simple. It is not that they are pieces of me, it's that they are pieces of you. It's that I can hold them in my hands and know that you held it in just the same way. It's that I can open the doodle you sketched for me during a boring study hall and smile with all of the joy it brought me then, and all of the joy it continues to bring me in my recollection of such a moment. It's that to look upon my walls and shelves means looking at you. It's that those tiny pieces mean that you are always with me. It's that keeping them around is a way to keep you, forever.
Of course I had felt badly about breaking the binoculars, but I was young, and hadn't ever understood the grand sorrow of their loss. I hadn't understood what it meant to lose someone. I hadn't understood the importance, the comfort, the safety of objects. I hadn't understood that they could mean more than their intended purpose, that they could, in fact, mean everything.
I look through the boxes of things I have saved over the years and in them, I find you. I find the laughter we shared. I find the warmth of our hugs. I find my love for you, growing ever stronger, replenishing those parts of my soul that need to be replenished. I find you. I find us. I find everything.
And if someday they were to be gone, I too, would feel that deep, profound sorrow of loss.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
My friend turned 23 yesterday. We all went into the city to celebrate. It was a reunion of sorts as we all gathered together for our common love of the birthday girl. I reconnected with people I haven't seen in weeks, months, years. It was lovely. It was a reminder of who I once was and who I have grown to be. It was a reminder of all I had given up by moving away from that life, but also a reminder of all I had gained by leaving. It solidified my faith in my choices, in myself, in knowing what was best for me. It made me feel less alone.
Not just because the time that had passed between us didn't seem to matter. Not just because it was a reconfirmation that my friends will always be my friends. Not just because it was so easy to slip back into the resonating sounds of their laughter, but because they too, had felt so much of what I've been feeling.
I apologized for being a bad friend, for not keeping in touch, for not knowing the details of their lives. They apologized for all the same reasons. It's just part of growing older, of existing in our daily lives, of having to slightly loosen the tight grips of the past to move forward. It's just part of life.
But there were also those who hadn't seemed to move forward. There were those who were still living the same way we had all been a few years ago. There were those who I saw as a reflection of what I would have been had I not been so desperate to evolve. And it was in seeing them, listening to them, that I discovered a new sense of confidence in myself, in my life, that I hadn't known existed. It was in picturing that alternate life that I conceived a new love for the one I have now, the one I chose, the one I am living. For the first time in a while, I was grateful to be removed from the stereotypical twenty-something world. I was grateful to have grown up.
For so long I have cursed my need to be responsible, but this morning I awoke with the small epiphany that I have responsibilities because I have a life that I love, that I want to protect. I cannot risk everything in the way some of my friends can. I have people who depend on me. I have an obligation to myself to be the best person that I can be, to wake each morning and be there for my little students, to set an example, to be a good friend. I am responsible because it only takes a moment, one bad decision, one wrong turn, to undo everything I've worked so hard to achieve. I am responsible for my future. I am responsible for my life.
I think about the way, only a few posts ago, I had wanted so desperately to give up adulthood, to cast aside my wisdom, to drown out the deep echo of my conscience. I think about those moments last night when it reared its ugly head, when it told me not to get into the car or participate in certain things or push myself to a breaking point. I think about how greatly I longed to silence it, to stop feeling like I was no longer capable of unbridled fun, to stop feeling like I was above it all.
But I have gotten to the point where I am above it all. And perhaps that last statement makes me a conceded snob, but it doesn't change the way I feel about it. I do know how to have fun. I AM fun, but I also know the importance of working hard and looking out for myself through good decisions. I know that there is more to my life than just me. I know that what I do, as much as what I don't do, effects others.
And I owe it to them - I owe it to myself - to do what I know in my heart to be right. I owe it to all of us to be responsible, and I am grateful for such an obligation, to know it, to feel it. For the first time in a long time, I am grateful to be the way I am.
So it was then, on the night of her birthday, that a small part of me became reborn.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Never Too Late
By Michael Franti
Don't fear your best freinds,
because a best friend would never try to do you wrong.
And don't fear your worst friends,
because a worst friend is just a best friend that's done you wrong.
And don't fear the night time,
because the monsters know that you're devine.
And don't fear the sunshine,
because everything is better in the summertime.
But it's never too late to start the day over.
It's never to late to pick up the phone.
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders.
It's never too late to come on home.
Don't fear the water,
because you can swim inside you within your skin.
And don't fear your father,
because a father's just a boy without a friend.
And don't fear to walk slow,
don't be a horserace, be a marathon.
And don't fear the long road,
because on the long road you got a long time to sing a simple song.
But it's never too late to start the day over.
It's never too late to pick up the phone.
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders.
It's never too late just come on home.
Don't fear your teachers,
because if you listen you can hear music in a school bell.
And don't fear your preacher,
if you can't find heaven in a prison cell.
And don't fear your own self,
paying money to justify your worth.
And don't fear your family,
because you chose them a long time before your birth.
But it's never too late to start the day over.
It's never too late, pick up the phone.
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders.
It's never too late, just come on home.
Hold to your children, hold to your children, hold to your children,
let them know.
Let them know.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
My code to the door wouldn't work for another twenty minutes and I realized as the door shut and clicked behind me that I'd left my keys inside. I was the only one there, so I sat out in the hallway this morning looking at the flowers painted on the wall. They're lovely little flowers, red and simple, as though the children themselves could have painted them.
I thought of Bhagsu, the little Indian village in the middle of the Himalayas where I lived for six weeks. Memory's funny that way. I thought of the painting on the wall behind the cafe counter of our little guesthouse. It was the picture of a valley with a river running through it, dividing the mountains. In the sky were two large eyes staring directly back at their viewers. Only a small portion of it was filled in with color.
I asked the owner, Anil, about it. He told me a young British artist had stayed with him one year and offered to paint a scene on his blank wall. She had gotten that far and then left, promising to come back and complete it. I loved the way he said it, the way every part of him believed she would return, the way he had complete faith that one day this little sketch would be a masterpiece.
I thought about her this morning, staring at those little red flowers. I wondered where she was, if she had remembered her promise, if she had meant it at the time, if she would ever fulfill it. I wondered if he was a fool to believe in her, in promises. I too, told them that I would one day return. At the time it felt as simple as turning the corner and being back in India, but almost two years later, it somehow feels so far away.
I wondered if every time she sat down to paint, she thought of that painting, of the one she has yet to complete. I wondered if it haunted her, the way unfulfilled promises do. I wondered if every part of her longed to be back there, standing in that little room scented with cigarette smoke and ginger, filling in the soft curved lines of her river.
Because most days, even if I'm not fully aware of it, I miss the soft curved lines of my pen moving across the empty pages of my journal. I miss sitting on the benches with international strangers, drinking mint tea made from the mint leaves growing in the garden below, and writing. I miss gathering together beneath the tin roofs of our patio during a daily (and yet still unexpected) hailstorm, listening to the tiny bits of ice bang against the hot metal. I miss that sense of belonging, the way gathering together there made us one, the way being travelers made us equals.
I miss waking up in the morning for the sole purpose of writing. I miss feeling like I existed just to write, just to open my eyes, walk out into the world and record my findings. I miss that sense of discovery.
I remember how anxious my friends felt to move on, to explore more, to not waste their days revisiting the same stretch of land over and over again. But I loved that feeling. I loved walking the same three miles to and from the nearest town each day and each time, seeing and hearing and feeling something new. I loved how open my head and heart became when my only responsibility was to be consciously aware of opening them. I loved that my time was mine.
I wrote like a woman possessed, as though to not document my every thought about every detail would somehow mean I had failed myself. Which is why now, I can remember every strike of lightening during those hailstorms. I can remember every face and laugh and conversation. I can remember every smell and every flower and every sunset. I can remember every footstep of those three miles to and from our room. I can remember all of the joy it brought me. I can remember what it felt like to be completely free.
I can remember every stroke of paint on that once blank wall. I can know that what I felt, that young artist once felt too. I can know that the artists who will follow us will feel it as well. I can know that something as simple as a red flower painted on a hallway wall will remain with me, forever. And that it will reappear in my memory at a time when I least expect it.
Monday, January 21, 2008
She said it's so funny, to see who I am here, to know this side of me. She said it's so funny that I am this daringly honest and truthful person here. She said it's so funny because to know me in real life, the walking, talking version of me, people may never guess that I was capable of such openness.
Which is completely fair and true. I am quiet. I am reserved. I am closed off, but not because I'm unwilling to share things about myself. It's simply that I'm unwilling to offer them up. If someone were to ask me a question, I'd give them an honest answer. Sometimes I think I ask others questions in the hopes that it will lead to something I want to say, that I've wanted to say for some time, that I'd been storing up for the perfect moment when someone would want to know. But if the occasion doesn't arrive, if the moment is not apropos, I don't put it out on the table and say here, here is my life, here is what's going on inside my head.
Here, on this blog, it is different. This blank space opens itself up to me, poses whatever question I would like to answer that moment, burns with possibility. This blank space exists as equally on this page as it does in my own head.
When I write here, I sit down and start typing. There is no concept in mind, no end result. There is no censorship or editing. This is it. This is me. This is the person I am when I'm sitting there quietly, when people can tell there are things I'd like to say but don't, when I censor myself out in the real world. This is what's going on in my head.
I write here because this is where I am comfortable sharing myself. I don't care who reads this because every inch of me longs to share these thoughts, these experiences, these words with anyone and everyone. I'm happy you are reading this because it makes me feel like I can be me, like I can be true to myself, in at least some small way.
I am working on trying to take this version of myself and extend it to the me who exists in the real world. I am trying to not have to depend on this blog to express myself. But for now, I am grateful to have such an outlet. I am grateful for the opportunity to sit down here each night and work through those thoughts and experiences and words floating around in my head. I am grateful to have people open this page and get to see another side of me, to connect with me, to understand me even a little better. I am grateful for this practice.
That people continue to read this blog never ceases to amaze me. That people, some who I know, some who I don't, devote a little bit of their time to listening to my reflections on life is remarkable. It says a lot about us -- as writers, as readers, as human beings. In a world where it is easy to feel alone, it is so comforting to know that there still exists these small gatherings, connections, communities where people come together. It is so comforting to have this space to share.
Whether you agree with what I write or not, whether you like it or not, by sitting down and reading my words, we have become connected. We have become something more than two strangers making their way through life. We have become changed by one another's existence. It's a lovely thought.
And I'm glad I have a place in which to share it.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I found this image in a PostSecret archive. It made me think of the conversation we had over dinner one night. He was surprised when I told him human beings are inherently good. He was surprised to hear such resounding faith in my voice, to see such deep belief in my eyes, to know that, despite everything, I meant it. I was equally surprised by his shock and disagreement. Although I knew he would never say such a thing, I suppose I had always assumed that everyone, in some way, believed it, that every single person had some kind of faith in the goodness of people. How else would we all move forward?
Yes we live in a world where horrible things happen. We live in a world where horrible things are done. We live in a world where it is possible to be a victim and a villain and both all at once. Wickedness is not beyond any of us. We are all capable of hurting, of being hurt, of acting upon our anger and sadness in monstrous ways. We are capable of becoming monsters. All of us.
The fact that there are those who are not, only leads me to believe that we are also just as capable of being good. All of us. We are capable of loving, of being loved, of reaching out our hands and hearts for others to hold. We are capable of seeing what needs to be done and we are capable of doing it, or at the very least, attempting to do it. Our attempts alone are one step closer to goodness. Our every tiny kindness is a legacy of those who showed goodness before us and a legacy for those who will choose goodness after us. Our every choice shapes the world around us.
I believe in the pursuit of happiness. Not the destination itself, although I do believe in the possibility of happy endings, but in the journey. I believe in the pursuit, and moreover, I believe we all believe it. I believe that even those who make the seemingly wrong decisions, those who we condemn and label "monsters," even they believed that their actions would bring them happiness. Which is not to say that I condone any of those decisions, or acts, or moments when people have allowed their capability to hurt to outweigh their capability to forgive, but I still believe that, in so many ways, we are all fighting the same fight. We are all on the same journey. We all have that same goal for ourselves -- of understanding, of inner peace, of happiness.
I believe that when I need help, someone will find it in their heart to try and provide it for me. Not because I am white, or a woman, or a middle-class American, but because I am a human being. And I'm not stupid. I know that there are plenty of people in the world who are not helped, are not saved, because they are none of the things I've listed above. But I also know there are a large number of people TRYING to help them. I know that there are a large number of people who read and watch the news and feel sympathy, who understand that they are fortunate and that being fortunate comes with the obligation to help those who are not. I believe that simply understanding that means there is goodness within them.
I cannot draw lines between good and bad. I'm not sure anyone can, although we depend on a series of systems whose sole purpose is to do just that. Still, I believe that we continue to survive because people have faith in one another. We continue onward because there is inherent goodness in us. We are a series of conversations, not monologues. We are questions, not answers. We are human beings, and together, we strive for joint happiness in the spirit of eternal forgiveness.
I believe in that, in us, in our pursuit for a happy life, and somewhere, deep down, I believe you believe it too.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
By Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I've been painfully sick and busy the past two days and am only now getting the chance to sit down and write.
I've been thinking about what it means to pay attention. Each day I plead with my little students to do just this; to sit quietly, to open their eyes and ears and minds, to see and listen and understand. Each day I am impressed with the progress they have made, with the way their worlds unfold before them, with the way their eyes sparkle with epiphanies.
I think of the red berries growing at the end of my apartment's walkway. I think of the way each day I am newly struck by their beauty, the way each day they are in fact, something new. I think, how lovely, to be twenty years older than these little minds I watch grow each day, and still be just as curious, just as awe-stricken, just as in love with the world unfolding before me.
Which is because I know how to pay attention, not just to the world, not just to the seemingly insignificant details, but to people, but to these children whom I love so dearly. I watch them twirl in the wind blown leaves. I watch them learn to say "please" and "thank you" and "I love you." I watch them discover snow. I watch them dance to music simply because it feels good. I watch them laugh when they are happy and cry when they are sad. I watch them hug one another whenever the impulse hits them. I watch them live on the most basic human level that anyone can live.
I pay close attention to that, to the way they interact with one another and the natural world that surrounds them. I try and remember the days when seeing an airplane fly across a cloudless sky meant everything, when hearing a fire truck in the distance was the best thing that could happen, when pulling a toy train across the floor meant you were the conductor of your own imagination.
And in remembering them, I begin to relive, to revive, the kind of wonder that becomes lost amidst the reality of daily existence. I begin to stop at the sound of trucks and the sight of birds and think, my children would love this, only to discover that I am loving it too.
A friend of mine received some bad news at work a few days ago and burst into tears. I held her. I stroked her hair and said "I'm so sorry" over and over until it became only words. I stood beside her. I watched her cry. I sat silently, annoyed by own inability to think of things to say. It occurred to me then, how quiet I get when things go wrong, how long it takes me to process any kind of sorrow. I have been at a loss for words so many times in my life. They are moments I replay over and over again in my head, wishing I had understood then exactly how I felt, wishing I had been able to express it.
But it is because of my need to pay attention, that I can't. Those moments move too quickly for me. My thoughts can't seem to keep up. I watch people cry. I listen closely to their words. I let the entirety of their sadness soak into me. And it is only then, that I can begin to process it all, that I can begin to feel, to think, to heal. I am quiet because I am internalizing the moment. I am taking it in and building a home for it in my heart. My eyes are wide because I am taking pictures to sort through later when I am returning to you with some attempt at comfort.
I think back to my little students, and the way they return my words and lessons to me days after I've dispensed them. I think of the way they too, are learning how to process, how to listen and feel and provide comfort. I think of the way they all stop and stare at their crying classmates. The way the whole room falls silent, if only for an instant, to grieve alongside their friends. I think of how, even at two, they already understand sympathy and compassion. I think of the way we are all simply people, saddened by one another's sorrow, delighting together in these small wonders.
I think of how our quiet is as simple and beautiful as the discovery of red berries at the end of a walkway. And I think of how lovely that is, because it is something human. Because it is just another way we learn to pay attention.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
She accused me of lying about my age this afternoon as I was teaching her to use her computer. "There's no way you're 22" she told me, "22 year olds aren't this smart." I smiled and told her she was giving me far too much credit. Her sixty-plus years on this earth have surely given her more wisdom than she allows herself to believe. There are so many things she has experienced that have yet to even cross my mind.
Still, I carried her words with me throughout the day. People have always guessed that I was older than I am. All of my friends at work are older and tell me on a regular basis that they forget about our age difference. I forget too. Relationships really do have so little to do with age, as does intellect, as does, as I'm slowly learning, wisdom. I have always been wise beyond my years.
For the most part, I enjoy that. I like that people seek out my advice, that they believe my opinion is worth seeking. I like that I think deeply about things, that I take in every piece of my life and explore it, cherish it, let it become a lesson. I like that I have so many thoughts.
And yet, there is a part of me that often wishes I didn't have that ability, that I could stop thinking, that I could turn off the constant turning within my mind and just be. There is a part of me that wishes I didn't know things that I know. There is a part of me that wishes I could just be the average 22 year old.
Because so many of my friends are older, I've begun to compare my life to theirs, not as a 22 year old, but as a human being. So many of them have children and spouses and homes. So many of them are adults, not because of their age, but because they fit the criteria of being grown up. They worry about bills and mortgages and obligations. They work, not for the sake of working, but for survival.
That's what I've wanted for as long as I can remember. I wanted to struggle. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be grown up. I've created my life around this idea. I've based all of my decisions around it. I've stepped away from my youth and crossed over a threshold that can never be reopened. I've closed the door to my childhood.
And the further away from it I get, the more I regret closing that door so soon. It's not that I'm unhappy living this life, it's more that I feel as though I've missed the opportunity to just be young, to be care free, to know that no matter what happens, I can still go home again.
I have no home. Not anymore. I have this apartment that I love, that I have filled with my own essence, that feels like home for the moment, but that I know is only temporary. I don't get financial help from my parents. I no longer seek their approval or fill them in on the details of my daily decisions. I no longer feel that they know what's best for me. This is my life and I am free to do with it as I please.
Which is terrifying. To be alone that way means that I have to look after myself, take care of myself, in ways I'd never had to worry about before. To have that sort of freedom means that I have no one to blame but myself if things go terribly wrong. To be on my own that way means that I am truly on my own.
I wanted that. I wanted not to feel like I had to depend on anyone for anything. I wanted to be self sufficient. I wanted my experiences to bring me wisdom. And they have. And I am grateful for what I have learned and that I know now that I am stronger than I've ever thought I could be.
But still there are those rare moments when I wish that I could fall into my mother's arms and feel completely safe again. I wish that I could depend on things to be taken care of with or without my help. I wish that I could spend my days writing in the park, my nights hanging out with my friends, and still have a roof over my head and food on the table. There are still those rare moments when I wish that I hadn't given up on my childhood so soon.
At 22 I have already been living in the "real world" for years. I have felt it's glorious highs and it's devastating lows. I have gained strength and knowledge from both. I have become wise beyond my years.
But still there are those rare moments when I think to myself "there's no way you're 22," and for an instant wish that I could take it all back.
Monday, January 14, 2008
She posed the question of whether we have to give up our dreams to live in the real world, whether it is possible to have a plan and follow it, whether it is foolish to believe that we really can have it all.
And it made me stop and consider my own life. So many times I have felt as though I was settling, as though each point I reached was simply a safe place to sit and rest a while, waiting for my real life to begin, waiting for my dreams to find me. I have worked hard and a lot, but have only had two real jobs. Because after some time, they begin to feel easy and safe and mine. They begin to feel comfortable.
I'm often jealous of those people who spend their lives bouncing from one profession to another, one country to another, one identity to another. From the outside it feels like they are living, like they are experiencing life and all it has to offer. They are alive. They don't settle for comfort, but rather, stretch their bravery to the limit. They are afraid of nothing. They don't know what their tomorrow will bring and are okay with that, embrace it, in fact, for its delicious potential.
That's what I thought my life would look like. That's what I thought I would be. But instead, I've become much more of a settler. My coworkers and I have come to consider ourselves "lifers" at our job. I'm beginning to explore the idea of a more permanent residence with one of them, somewhere close, somewhere we can consider home. I'm beginning to get comfortable with this life.
And like most decisions, it both thrills and terrifies me. I fear I'll become a woman wishing she had done things differently, wishing she was living while her life passed her by. I can't help but think about what I'm giving up by choosing this permanence. I can't help but think that staying still means letting go of any chance of becoming that fearless wanderer I'd envisioned myself being. I can't help but think this is the small death of a dream.
I've surrounded myself in my comfortable life, created a cocoon of silence and fear. I've placed myself within this cold, hard shell hoping to both change and stay exactly the same forever. I do not feel like a butterfly. I feel like a scared caterpillar hiding away from the world. Possibility offers itself up to me and I politely decline its invitation and settle into the life I know.
I wanted to be a person who spread joy, but I fear I've become someone who makes connections through shared sadness. I wanted to be alive, but fear I am only living. And in times I've wanted to die, I've discovered some small part of me already has, some idealistic hope I once had that became smothered within the crevices of disappointment.
And yet--there is new hope. There is the small lingering faith that among the ashes of my unfulfilled longing there is still a burning ember or two that refuses to go out, that will ignite the growing forest of my ambition and spread like wildfire through the trees of my desire. There is a part of me that will always believe in that kind splendor, that rebirth of the spirit. There is a part of me that will always believe in the power of dreaming.
And in light of that, where I am or what I'm doing seems irrelevant. Being comfortable is not the end of me. Choosing a life does not mean surrender. Standing still does not mean that I am stuck. It only means that I'm giving those few embers time to light, to ignite, to rage.
And I will burn with life.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
I know that I am the one who did this. I shut you out. I avoided phone calls and emails and gatherings because I couldn't bear to think about you, much less see you. Your face is a reminder of everything I long to escape.
Please understand that I hate what you've done to me. I hate that I see every part of me that I dislike reflected so strongly in your eyes. I hate that when I look at you, I know what you're seeing in me. I hate that you were never there for me the way I needed you to be. I hate that it had to be this way. I hate that, even in your attempts at regret, you still don't understand.
But mostly, I hate that I can't hate you. I hate your attempts at regret because it only turns the blame on me, and I know that's what you want. I know that you blame me. I know that you've decided this is what women are like -- emotional, irrational, dramatic. I know you've put me in this little category of people you cannot connect with, as a woman, as my mother's daughter, as someone you wish was a better reflection of you.
I am not you. Nor am I my mother, or my sister, or my brothers. I am me, and never once in my life has that been enough for you. Not once have you allowed me to feel worthy of your time, or attention, or love. Not once have I felt the unconditional love of a father.
You invited me to return, no questions asked, but that's always been the problem, hasn't it? Too few questions, too few answers. Nothing real. I cannot keep having the same conversation about the literary world over and over again. You are a wonderful English teacher, of that I am certain, but you are not MY teacher. You are my father. Somehow the roles have become blurred for you. I am tired of discussing books. I am tired of being your student. I am tired of attempting to be your daughter. I am just so tired.
And for anyone who reads this who is without a father, who has lost one, or never had one, I am sorry. I am sorry for your loss and I am sorry for selfishly ignoring the father I have, but this is how things have come to be.
You "guess" that you have hurt me. "Perhaps" your remarriage hurt too. I "guess, perhaps" you haven't been listening to anything I've been saying to you over the past two years. I am not angry that you got married. I want to make that very clear. I am angry that you got married to a woman you allowed me to meet once before your wedding. I am angry you didn't tell me you were getting married. I am angry you did it while I was on the other side of the world, that you told me in a three sentence email accompanied with the news that my new step-brother was dead. I am angry that you put me in the position where I had no choice but to be angry.
You are angry that I refuse to be a part of your "new family," but I am angry because you didn't invite me in. I wanted so desperately to be the opposite of every step-child ever portrayed in movies. I wanted to be supportive of the new people, the new love, in both of my parents lives. I wanted to be a good daughter and step-daughter and person. And you robbed me of that. You robbed me of any possible relationship with my new step-mother, and you robbed me of any real relationship with you.
I have tried so many times to find forgiveness, but each time, nothing changes. And it is that, that stagnant shallowness of our relationship, that has lead me here. It is that coming and going with "no explanation needed" that destroys me. I cannot keep opening up to something, someone, that will never let me in. I cannot keep giving you my heart and trusting that you will keep it safe. I cannot have faith in you.
And I do hate that. And I hate that I can't move on. And I hate that I have to spend each day unsuccessfully trying to shut you out of my mind. And I hate that I can't hate you enough to forget you.
I'm sure that you think that I want you to make an effort, but I don't. I want it to be over. I want to be able to forgive myself for what I'm doing here, and I can't do that if I'm being constantly reminded of what things should have been, what they could have been, had you been a better husband, and father, and person. All I want to do is move on with my life, and somehow, I can't seem to escape you.
I just want you to let me go.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Sometimes I am not sure if it is your memory or mine. I know so few of the details. I couldn't possibly remember it, not logically, not accurately, not the way I've created it within my head. I am certain I would never have thought of it had it not been presented to me by you. Surely it is not my story.
Surely the pain it causes me is sympathy. And when I wake in the middle of the night in a panic, when my eyes are filled with tears I cannot explain, it is your anguish I am feeling, not my own.
But sadness is funny in that way, in that it is never truly confined to just one person. The moment you shared your story, it became my story too. The moment you released the inner workings of suffering within your heart, it became intertwined with the inner workings of my own heart. The moment your burden was lifted, mine was made heavier.
Which is not to say that I am angry that you told me. I don't regret knowing. I never regret knowing. I just wish it was a problem with a solution. I wish that I had known sooner perhaps, or that I had asked more questions when we spoke. I wish I didn't have a mind filled with limitless possibilities of how difficult it might have been, how truly awful it might have been. Having only pieces of the story simply leaves room for me to fill in the holes with my own wonderings. And that tortures me.
You asked me once to never write about it here, so I am trying to work through it as evasively as I can. This is the only way I know how. To write it, to post it here where others can see it, even if they have no understanding of it. This is the way I begin to lift the burden.
Sometimes I think I remember you crying that night. Sometimes I think, even as a child, I knew something had happened, something was wrong. Sometimes it scares me to think that none of that is true, that I didn't know, that I never would have known. I am glad that I know that part of your history because it helps me to understand pieces of mine. It helps me to fill in those holes that have been left to my own imagination. Now there is fact. Now there is truth.
I wonder if after all these years, it still haunts you. I wonder if years from now, it will still haunt me. I wonder if any of us ever get to a point where we really can leave the past behind us. Of course, I don't mean healing. I believe people can and do heal. I believe it's possible to move forward, but to get to a place where it no longer sneaks in to your idle thoughts from some back corner of your mind, well that I'm not sure of. Have I ever really forgotten anything?
Because all it takes is a single moment, a single word, a single idea from someone else, and the wounds become undone like a freshly picked scab. The gates are reopened. The flood begins. And I wonder if you feel that way too.
There is a kind of pain that helps us grow, a kind of pain I am mostly grateful for, a kind of pain I revere as a doorway to something new, something better. It is the only kind of pain I have ever really experienced. But this pain, your pain, is something different. Something I hope I'll never have to experience, but something I wish I could better understand in order to better understand you. Would you tell me more if I had gone through it?
Of course I wish that it had never happened. God, do I wish that. But I wonder if you ever stop and think that you wouldn't be the same person if things had gone differently that night. I wonder if some small part of you is ever okay with your past. I wonder how you have such strength, to wake each morning and greet a world that has been so unkind to you, that seems so unfair. And I wonder how you have the courage to not share it, to not post it on some blog, to not want anyone else to. Sometimes I feel like the truly brave people are the ones who carry their heaviness alone.
I am not that brave, and so I write this now, because it flooded in this afternoon, into my idle thoughts from some back corner of my mind, and I didn't know what else to do but write it here. Surely it is not my story, but somehow now, it is.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
"But it's sunny outside" she said, pointing at our snowflake covered walls. Trying to explain the concept of seasons to two year olds is difficult when global warming is involved. We spent all morning playing outside, running through the leaves, standing with our arms spread wide, letting the wind blow us whichever way it chose.
Despite the harm I know our poor earth is facing, I've been grateful for the gorgeous weather. It's been lovely and rejuvenating, like spring itself. It's been exactly how I've been feeling, a rebirth of the spirit, a mending of the soul.
I've been trying to say "yes" to things and to stick with those promises. It sounds like such an easy task, but it's been difficult for me these past few months. It's been difficult to agree to go out, to make time for things beyond work, to step out into the world and explore it the way I had always done, the way I was meant to. Sometimes it feels like the real work of my life is simply to savor the beauty around me.
And somewhere along the line, I think I forgot that. Or at the very least, ignored it. Somehow I allowed my job to consume me, and not in the fun way where I devoted my everything to it, but in a way that allowed my waking up each morning for that purpose to define me. I allowed the definition of myself to be reduced to a title.
When in fact, I am so much more than what I do. Of course it is a part of who I am, and I am grateful for the label of teacher, but I am also grateful for the rest of me. I am grateful for the labels of writer, traveler, explorer, thinker, dreamer, sister, daughter, friend. And I am grateful for those pieces of me that cannot be labeled, defined, condensed into words. I am grateful for my layers.
I have never truly considered myself a pessimist, but when it comes to how I view my own life, I always have been. I have always felt that I was lacking something, that I was less than I could be or should be. Even as I write that, I still feel it to be true. And of course, it IS true. There is so much more that I'm capable of. There is so much more that I could be if I just tried. If I just opened myself up to possibility. If I just had a little faith in myself.
But instead of searching inside myself for faith, for strength, for courage, I've looked outward. I've looked to other people. I've looked to define myself in labels, in concepts, in these tiny categories I've created within the world. I've looked for so long at this idea of who I should be that I've forgotten who I already am. I've forgotten what I already have. I've forgotten to embrace my triumphs along with my failures.
And so I am trying now to not only say yes to social invitations, but to say yes to myself as well. Yes, I can be something more, but yes, I am already something. Yes, it is okay to feel a little lost and confused and even sad and alone, but yes, it is also okay to feel happy even if not much has changed. Yes, I am capable of things, but yes, it is going to take more than capability to accomplish them. Yes, I am a dreamer, but yes, I also must live in the real world. Yes, I have a blessed life, but yes, I do want more.
Yes, it is January, but yes, it does feel like spring.
Monday, January 07, 2008
I don't have a lot of time or energy tonight to write a post. At the same time, I don't want to fall out of the habit of writing here, and know that I will always find an excuse such as the one above not to. So I'm posting just for the sake of posting. This is a wonderful essay by Leonard Bernstein. Enjoy.
"I believe in people. I feel, love, need and respect people above all else, including the arts, natural scenery, organized piety, or nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the whole mountain disappear for me. One person fighting for the truth can disqualify for me the platitudes of centuries. And one human being who meets with injustice can render invalid the entire system which has dispensed it.
I believe that man's noblest endowment is his capacity to change. Armed with reason, he can see two sides and choose: he can be divinely wrong. I believe in man's right to be wrong. Out of this right he has built, laboriously and lovingly, something we reverently call democracy. He has done it the hard way and continues to do it the hard way--by reason, by choosing, by error and rectification, by the difficult, slow method in which the dignity of A is acknowledged by B, without impairing the dignity of C. Man cannot have dignity without loving the dignity of his fellow.
I believe in the potential of people. I cannot rest passively with those who give up in the name of "human nature." Human nature is only animal nature if it is obliged to remain static. Without growth, without metamorphosis, there is no godhead. If we believe that man can never achieve a society without wars, then we are condemned to wars forever. This is the easy way. But the laborious, loving way, the way of dignity and divinity, presupposes a belief in people and in their capacity to change, grow, communicate, and love.
I believe in man's unconscious mind, the deep spring from which comes his power to communicate and to love. For me, all art is a combination of these powers; for if love is the way we have of communicating personally in the deepest way, they what art can do is to extend this communication, magnify it, and carry it to vastly greater numbers of people. Therefore art is valid for the warmth and love it carries within it, even if it be the lightest entertainment, or the bitterest satire, or the most shattering tragedy.
I believe that my country is the place where all these things I have been speaking of are happening in the most manifest way. America is at the beginning of her greatest period in history--a period of leadership in science, art, and human progress toward the democratic ideal. I believe that she is at a critical point in this moment, and that she needs us to believe more strongly than ever before, in her and in one another, in our ability to grow and change, in our mutual dignity, in our democratic method. We must encourage thought, free and creative. We must respect privacy. We must observe taste by not exploiting our sorrows, successes, or passions. We must learn to know ourselves better through art. We must rely more on the unconscious, inspirational side of man. We must not enslave ourselves to dogma. We must believe in the attainability of good. We must believe, without fear, in people."
Sunday, January 06, 2008
These past two days, I've felt better. People can say that it was only time fulfilling its role, healing wounds, but I know better. It was not time at all that lightened my heart. It was this.
It was writing here. It was the lovely comments and emails and conversations sparked by my writing here. It was the simple act of writing itself. It was the simple act of giving my angst a voice and sharing it with the world.
A dear friend of mine asked me if I censored myself on this blog, knowing anyone could see it, and I surprised even myself that the answer was no. Of course, I try to use names as little as possible and would never write anything that would hurt or embarrass anyone else, but I have never once hesitated to write exactly what was in my own heart. I have never edited a post I've written here, because often in retrospect, I know there are things I'd wish I hadn't said, but of course, know that I needed to say them. All of this is honest and real because it does not come from my analytical head. It comes from my open soul.
Friday I returned to work after being home sick for two days. The majority of my little students had returned from their holiday breaks. It felt so good to see them all again, to have a full classroom, to be busy and useful and needed. I felt more like myself, like the teacher I knew I was and could be, than I have in a while. I was calm and patient and attentive. We played games and chased each other and danced. We comforted one another. Their little smiles and hugs and laughs saved me.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon with two of my favorite people. One is the friend I spend every weekday morning with. I see her more than anyone. I tell her more than anyone. She's become my family. The other had just gotten a new house and moved out of our daily lives at work. We went to visit her and her two year old daughter. We drank and ate and gossiped and bonded. We watched America's Next Top Model and made snide comments. We played with her daughter. It was simple and easy and natural. It was exactly what I needed.
I dropped my friend off and raced home to change, raced back out to a country club in the middle of nowhere to celebrate a friend's graduation. It felt so nice to be busy, to have a plan, to not have time to sit and dwell upon everything in my life. The party was lovely. I sat with a group of the best friends I could ever ask for and we ate and talked and laughed. It was perfect. I didn't think about the rest of life. I didn't have things in the back of my mind I was longing to say. I was simply in the moment, enjoying the moment, the way it deserved to be enjoyed.
Today I have a luncheon with a bunch of girlfriends I haven't seen in forever. It will be nice to reconnect, to see them, to know that all of this time can pass between us and we are still friends. It's been far too long. It's been a lifetime.
And perhaps these are only momentary distractions from things I need to deal with, but right now, that's all I really wanted. Just a few lovely events to renew my happiness. Just a few reminders that I am anything but alone. Just a few wonderful people to light my mood, my heart, my life, as they have always done. I am so grateful for the distractions.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Over dinner one night we discussed the idea of weakness. We found it funny that we had both come to associate it with dependence. Needing something was weakness. Needing someone was weakness. The opposite of weakness was independence.
Which was funny only because we are two smart women who know that isn't at all true. But as she so wisely pointed out, knowing something and feeling something are two very different things indeed.
I cannot speak for her, only for me, but for most of my life, I've felt that being independent was everything, being independent guaranteed me freedom, being independent made me strong. And so I've spent the vast majority of my life trying to claim that independence, trying to prove to the world and to myself that I could handle everything on my own, that I could do it all myself, that I didn't need help from anyone.
And instead of finding freedom, I simply ended up putting myself on this little island and calling it independence. As though that were something real. As though that somehow proved my strength. When in fact, all it did was isolate me. So I stand here on this island. I watch boats pass by and say nothing. Because that way being stranded can be my choice instead of something that's happened to me. Maybe I've spent these last few years preparing myself for a lifetime of loneliness. Maybe I've somehow always felt that was inevitable. Maybe that's why I so often feel alone.
I am never closer to a person than when they reach out to me, ask something of me, share with me something real. I never love a person more than when they open their life and invite me in. And yet, somehow, I'm unable to do the same. I can love almost anyone who enters my life so whole heartedly, and yet I have never let anyone do the same for me. I have never let anyone love me the way that they want to, the way that they claim I deserve to be loved. It is how I protect myself. It is how I guard my heart.
And I know that it's illogical, but again, knowing it and feeling it are two very different things indeed. I could so easily blame my family history, the five divorces in the past three generations. I could so easily claim that it's my loss of faith in relationships that makes me keep my distance from love. But the truth is, it's so much more than that.
It's about loving myself, something I have not yet learned to do for even the slightest of moments. I have loved my life, yes, but never fully loved who I was within it. It is that self doubt, that knowledge of all versions of myself, that fear that someone will discover all of the unloveable parts of me that keeps me from ever letting anyone in. It is fear. It is doubt. I am scared of my own truths.
I am scared that when I reach out, it will prove my weakness. I am scared that becoming dependent on someone that way will only mean the loss of knowing how to survive without them. I am scared of losing my independence. I am as scared to not be alone as I am to be alone.
And I am scared that because of that I will spend my entire life on this small island, calling it independence, as I watch those little boats float further and further out to sea.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
In light of what I wrote yesterday, I suppose I wanted to clarify (mostly for myself) that I have not lost faith in things. Despite all the sadness and angst I've been feeling, despite my lack of interest in the world around me, despite the fact that I spent all morning crying about things I can't even define, I still believe in happiness. I still believe in joy. I still believe I deserve them, not because of anything I've done or anything that's happened to me, but simply because I am human. Being alive entitles me to happiness. I still have faith in that.
At a tram stop in Prague I once watched a small boy of about 10 through the window of a cafe. He was eating a sandwich. He had food smeared across his face, his tiny fingers gripping the enormous slices of bread on both sides while all of the contents fell to the countertop beneath him as he attempted to bite into it. His eyes were wide. It was the quintessential European scene. It was the opening to every pretentious black and white french film ever made. I was in love with that moment.
And I remember, even then, the awe I felt in watching his happiness. I remember the way it seemed so new to him, as though it was the first sandwich he had ever eaten, as though it was the first delicious thing to ever touch his lips. I remember the way that simple act seemed to bring him more pleasure than I could recall anything ever bringing me.
Until I realized, of course, that the moment in and of itself brought me that same kind of joy. And so I began, slowly, to return to myself, to begin to notice those little details that make the whole experience of living worthwhile. The scent of an early morning in winter, a child's laugh, the way the soft afternoon light pours so gently through my windows. It all began to make sense again.
I think of those little things now, as I sit here feeling unmotivated and uninspired. I think of them and understand that I am not foolish to hope. Hope for something more, hope for something beautiful, hope for the future of my life. Because as sad as I may feel, I know that it's possible to be happy. As lost as I may feel, I know that feeling lost is the only way to find, to be found. As alone as I may feel, I know that I am not alone, as no one can ever really be alone. As much as I feel disconnected from my family, I know that I still have family in the people I have chosen to love, the people who have so graciously returned the favor.
There's a great line from an essay by Cecile Gilmer from the This I Believe series on NPR that goes "I believe that families are not only blood relatives but sometimes just the people that show up and love you when no one else will." I think fondly of this line as I receive calls and messages from my friends. I know that they're there. I know that they'd be willing to help me in any way that they could if I asked for it. I know I am endlessly blessed for these amazing people.
And somehow, it's still so hard. It's still so difficult for me to call them up and say "I'm sad. I need you." It's still so hard for me to admit that I can't do things on my own.
I had several amazing conversations with the dear friend I stayed with in Prague. I told her things I had bottled up for years, things I had never told anyone because no one had ever bothered to ask, things I had wanted to say so many times. She listened. She heard me. And for the first time, in a long time, I felt somewhat better. And then of course, worse, as is the way with these types of things. Because what I had really secretly hoped was that by saying them, by naming them, by putting them out into the universe, it would all be different. But it wasn't. It only made things seem more real.
And she said "it's funny, because everyone always sees you as happy, wonderful Frankie that we all turn to for help, and no one ever realizes that you need help too." And it wasn't really until that moment that I realized I do, in fact, need help too. So I am trying now, to ask for what I need.
And I know that if I ask, it will be given to me, by all of those wonderful souls I am lucky enough to call family, those beautiful people who show up and love me when no one else will. I have not lost faith in them. I still believe that I am fortunate enough to have their love. I still believe in us.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
2008. A new year. A fresh start.
I suppose I had hoped that it would somehow work out that way, that everything would just reset, that I could begin again with a blank slate to create upon. I suppose I had wished that when the clock struck twelve, my whole life would be different. The fireworks would burst open across the dark night sky and shower my life with their pixie dust. Bang. It would be magic. Bang. I would be reborn. Bang. Everything would be okay again.
But this is real life, and so that's not what happened. Instead I stood on the bridge with my friends, with thousands of strangers, with an entire city buzzing around me, feeling completely alone. And there is nothing more painful than feeling alone when surrounded by people. Truly, there is not.
It's been a rough week, but more than that, it's been a rough couple of years. I haven't dealt with it. I've been sad for moments, but let those moments pass by without much more than a single tear. I've pushed everything I've wanted to say, everything I've felt, aside to make room for the responsibilities and obligations of daily life. I've been foolish. I've cut myself off through my denial and avoidance and silence. I've closed the door to my friends, to my ambitions, to my emotions, to my own life. I've forced smiles and bit my tongue. I've distorted my body and mind and heart to convince the world that I'm okay, as though somehow everyone was watching, as though somehow that perception of me was what mattered.
It is 2008, and I am only just now learning how to ask for help. Even that is a struggle, and I fear the inevitably more difficult tasks beyond that -- learning how to express myself, learning how to allow myself to feel, learning how to be okay with who I am. I am well aware of the angst that such a journey brings. Yet still I know, I must try. Prolonging it does nothing but create more of a mountain to climb. I know that. I know that it is fear that hinders me. I know that only I can save my own life.
But knowing things doesn't always make it easier to act. Often, it makes it harder. And I know that what lies before me requires more courage than anything I've ever done. And I am scared. I am scared to open the gates of my family history, knowing what's there, knowing there's more to discover. I am scared to admit that I feel, more often than not, that I don't belong to that family, that no one does, that we're a group of people connected through obligation. I am scared of how alone that makes me feel.
But what scares me even more than that is the thought that I'll always feel that way, the thought that I'll never speak to them about it, that we'll all continue on in our silent worlds, smiling politely to one another across the table on holidays. And I can't live that way. I refuse to become them. I refuse to repeat their mistakes.
Which is why, in this new year, I know what I have to do. I have to step off of this path I am on and reevaluate my route. I have to look back to move forward. I have to be brave enough to say that I am unhappy, that I need help, that I refuse to quiet the inner monologue running through my head. I have to use this voice I was blessed with. I have to start screaming until I am heard.
And so today I bought a new computer and resolved to return to this blog. Because even if no one is reading, somehow it still allows me to speak. And so with this, I send my first loud cry out into the world, like an explosion of feeling,