Origins.

The paths from where we came
Are not straight but winding
Around cliffs and abandoned buildings
Ghosts of former glory, decaying love
Contrasted against the beauty of Mother Nature’s nurture.

At night the owls call asking me “Who?”
As if I ever knew. As if I could ever hope to know.
Who, who?
In the dark I have no mirror to hold it up against.
In the dark I have no reference but the blood in my veins,
The same veins that contain venom from 21 years of life.
My blood cannot be trusted. It has been contaminated
By strands of DNA, codes telling cells how to act
The same bond determining the relationship on the outside–
Original telling the new how to live.

The owls never stop chanting at night.
Their questions keep me awake as I find branches to make into beds
To make into homes somehow.
I wish they would ask another question;
Though the hows and wheres are equally vague,
At least they are not phantoms sent to hunt.

Two wholes forms halves to make another whole,
But the equation always leaves something out.
The sum is not equal to its respective parts.
Ratios and fractions puzzle even the most versed.
The glue holds it together, barely,
Until something shakes the foundations and the cracks start to show.
Who, who?
If I could travel backward, find where the path started,
Find out how my halves made a whole,
But one whole is missing, leaving holes in the whole plan.
Too many bridges out, destroyed by fires, earthquakes, and other
Semi-natural disasters.

Forward, never knowing what came before,
What will come after.
A traveler with no navigation tools,
Completely unprepared for life on the road.
Yet the owls, with their nighttime eyes
And superior senses
Can see for miles in any direction their heads turn.
I ask them “where?”
But all they ever say is “who.”
Broken records that find their place among other broken things.

I lie down among the graveyard of broken,
With my twig-homes and dripping glue and tainted blood,
And I let the whos rock me to sleep.

Advertisements

Homecoming.

There’s no more light in the forest. I’ve been looking skyward for days, but the rainwater keeps getting in my eyes, blurring what used to be so crystal clear. I know, I know it should cleanse my soul, awaken me, but it’s drowning me out, carrying me away in a stream of debris. The deluge is reaching up to my neck, and I’m not so sure I can swim. The water is so cold it’s left me numb. I can’t tell if my feet are touching the bottom anymore, and even if I could, I would just feel the shards of broken bottles and empty memories. Each cut reminds me of what I had to give up to get here.

But what did the sacrifice mean? I am alone in a forest that never ends, where the light never reaches the floor of plants so starved for light that they stretch themselves thin and frail just reaching out for it, their cells shrinking until they are but whispers of their former selves.

I’ve been looking for a tree to rest against, just to catch my breath from all the traveling, but each one I lean on crumbles into dust the moment I let go. I know there’s a tree strong enough to hold me–to allow me to live my life out in its limbs, safe from the unending storm–but it takes destroying so many others that I’ve given up. Instead I seek my refuge in hollowed out logs, sharing my hideaway with the occasional rabbit or squirrel. I haven’t felt another human in weeks. One learns to look for warmth in other places after a while, but a water-logged forest does not lend itself to being temperate.

There are no paths anymore–no trails to follow. If anyone else has been here before, they certainly haven’t blazed anything, so I stumble blindly from place to place, everything blending into one unbroken canvas. It’s all the same anymore. I’m trying to find home, but no one ever taught me where that was. It has to be more than siding and walls, chimneys and roofs, but anywhere I’ve tried to hang my hat has gone up in flames so fast I didn’t even have time to cry.

I miss the sun on my skin. I miss anything warm, like a shoulder to rest on or a mug of tea or a good book. I miss the sound of my name being wrapped in the softness of compassion, miss the feeling of having flat ground under my tired feet, miss the smile of someone who has seen my heart but holds it anyway, even though it’s rough and bumpy sometimes… even though there are pieces missing. I miss feeling like being enough, even though I am one person who is very small and very tired. I miss the magic of 7:00 PM on a country road, weaving through green pastures and showing birds how to fly away.

No, I’m doomed to walk the forest, knowing that if I ever resurface, I will break through the tree line to see all those who promised to be there, smiling and saying, “We were worried, but we knew you could cross it.” And I will look at them, with their genuine eyes and their noble intentions, and I will walk away because when you tell someone you will walk with them, it means day or night, rain or sun, warm or cold. It means you will help them to their feet when another tree crumbles. It means you will reach out a hand when the current is holding them captive.

I stopped crying long ago; the sky sheds my tears now, providing life for others who are lost. Mother Nature… look how she mourns for me. She’s the only mother I’ve ever known to listen to the songs I sing while I gather sustenance for another night alone. The minor keys play on her heartstrings as she erases the clouds long enough to let me count the stars before I fall asleep. She is everywhere, but I cannot touch her–cannot feel her embrace because her life is separate from mine. Maybe she is home for me, but what a lonely home it is.

2012 in Summary.

It has become a tradition that I fill out the same survey every year on New Year’s Eve. I’ve been slacking on it, but I’ll do it now!

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

  • I got on a plane!

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

  • I didn’t make any resolutions last year, and I haven’t made any this year. I’m not really into resolutions, but I have certain goals as to how to make my life better and that sort of thing.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

  • No, but 2013 will have at least two births.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

  • My grandfather.

5. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

  • A stable relationship with a straight man, but that’s akin to asking for a flying pig to skate on hell’s ice when it freezes over. Last year’s answer makes me giggle because apparently a flying pig must be skating on hell’s frozen ice. Anyway, I would really like more independence. I would like to travel more. I would like to start something new.

6. What countries did you visit?

  • Still don’t have a passport.

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:

  • September 3rd, 2012–the date Nick asked me out. December 30th, 2012–the date I finally got over my fear of flying.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

  • Survival? Honestly, that’s a huge thing given how this year went. Also, I got a job, so that’s something.

9. What was your biggest failure?

  • I still haven’t been able to develop a no-calorie chocolate.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

  • Yes. This has been the year for that, it seems.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

  • My car, definitely.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

  • Those who have supported me through the crazy ups and downs and who have always had my best interests at heart.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

  • I don’t even want to go there.

14. Where did most of your money go?

  • Xbox games, new phone, iPad, random stuff at The Grove…

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

  • I’m always excited, but I was ridiculously excited for San Francisco. I also got really excited when Nick moved in, and again when he and I decided that we would take a vacation to Savannah, GA.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

  • Maybe “Shake It Off” by Florence + the Machine.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder? Happier.

ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter, but taking measures to change my lifestyle.

iii. richer or poorer? Poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

  • I wish I had taken my needs into consideration more. I wish I had dedicated more time to my studies at times. I wish I had tried earlier to overcome my fears.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

  • I wish I did less math. I didn’t do any math.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

  • Christmas is over, stop making me sad.

21. There is no number 21.  Well, that’s lame.  Guess I’ll just have to make one up.  How do you feel about 2013?

  • I feel like I’ve made so much personal progress in the past six months, and I am hoping that I’m able to continue that into 2013.

22. Did you fall in love in 2012?

  • I can honestly say that I did.

23. How many one-night stands?

  • None.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

  • BUNHEADS. Seriously, Amy Sherman-Palladino, I am so glad you’re back.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

  • I don’t hate anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?

  • The Hunger Games trilogy. Oh God, so good.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

  • Sleeping at Last. End of discussion.

28. What did you want and get?

  • Someone special.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

  • BRIDESMAIDS. Always.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

  • I went to classes. I turned 20.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

  • Honestly, I’m satisfied.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

  • I wore stuff. I discovered leggings, ergo many dresses were worn.

34. What kept you sane?

  • Therapy. Friends. Loved ones.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

  • I have a girlcrush on Rachel Maddow.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

  • The election, all of the measures to restrict birth control, ObamaCare, etc.

37. Whom did you miss?

  • It’s my custom to miss people if I’m not with them.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

  • My counselor.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:

  • It takes time, but you’ll get there.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

  • “Honestly, nothing’s ever made sense ’til you were next to me.”

Terms of Agreement

I know this feeling, and I remember how much I hate this feeling. It’s kind of like the feeling you get the first day on a new job, or the first day of classes when you’re trying to get accustomed to where the clock is and who’s sitting next to you. It feels normal, but everything is different and you don’t quite know how it will work out. That, my friends, is my life. This feeling sneaks up on me in times of distress, and then all of a sudden I’m looking at a couch in my living room that’s been there for ten years wondering if it’s always been that color or if I’ve just ignored it. I question the stability of everything. Nothing is fixed; everything is in a state of flux, and that’s unsettling in itself regardless of circumstance. This shift happens often enough for me to have thought about it at great length. If one thing is big enough to force me to take a step back, all of a sudden every facet of my life is laid out before me, and I think that things need to shift in order to accomodate the latest dilemma. Something to that effect, anyway; I haven’t quite gotten it figured out yet.

Anyway, I hate how I feel in this flux period because I don’t feel sure of anything, especially my ability to make decisions. To be indecisive when you feel like everything is changing is a really terrible thing, really, but in some way I guess I’m appreciative because I know I’m putting 20 times more thought into a plan than I normally would.

Plan. Yes. I have one, I think, which could change tomorrow or an hour from now. To have a plan, though, is progress, and comforting progress at that.

So: tomorrow I will get all of the remaining information about what it would mean to take a leave of absence from school. If I choose to take the leave, which I believe at this point I will, then I will have to get my mom to agree to some terms.

TERMS OF AGREEMENT:
PREFACE: I, your daughter of twenty years, have been through six solid years of hell. You have been there and understand what said hell entails. I have been forced by different pressures to continue as if nothing has changed, and I’ve decided that I need a break. I need to take some much needed time to heal, get my life in perspective, and get my motivation back. This decision is not easy for me, nor do I think you will find it easy to accept, but I am going to take the rest of the semester off to take care of my physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

TERMS:
1) On Fridays through Mondays, I will take care of the house. You will leave me a list of chores that need to be completed around the house. I will buy ingredients for dinner and will prepare said dinner. You will relax as much as possible.

2) On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, you will do the housework and I will have leisure time for whatever I please, whether it be productive or not. If you need help with something, I will help you, but I will not spend the day being your slave.

3) On Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, we will spend at least an hour together doing an activity of your choice.

Other terms may be added to this agreement if both parties involved agree to added terms.

I’m ready for this conversation, but I need the rest of my information first. For now, I ride out the flux.

Impasse.

“What is it that you need?”

I need a set of things that are not possible in these circumstances, which to me isn’t the least bit surprising. What happens when your frivolous wants always seem to be met, but not your needs? I can have anything material that I want in about a second if I really have that much desire for it, but the basic things–the things that make the human experience actually humanistic–are the things I can hardly seem to find.

Right now it boils down to an overload of responsibility and a lack of me to go around. I play so many roles that at the end of the day it’s hard to see who I really am without having to be molded for someone else. At my bedside are a collection of masks that I’m forced to wear on a daily basis depending on whose needs are greatest at the moment. At night, in the dark, I can finally take off the last mask and rest, but in the dark there isn’t a way to see me for me. And at that point, who has the energy? One more mask on the rack. One more day to cross off the calendar.

So, back to the question at hand: what do need? I need to be one person, and I need people to realize that I am one person with limitations and a limited supply of sanity. Let’s take a moment to examine what’s been put on my plate in 2013 thus far:

1. You must find yourself a surgeon because you have two cysts that are burrowing into the area around your tailbone. Do this as soon as possible.
2. You can’t drive because your bum ankle gave out again. You can barely manage getting up and down the stairs. Mobility is limited.
3. Your mother, the head of household, has emotionally checked out and/or has placed her baggage with you for safekeeping. You are expected to be her confidant.
4. You are a college student taking two upper-level Spanish classes, a 400-level Psychology class, and a core curriculum class. Everyone around you expects you to get a 4.0.
5. Your best friend (or at this point, former best friend) won’t talk to you, and you have no idea what you’ve done wrong, but you know that it’s your fault.
MISC: You’re supposed to see a cardiologist about your latest episode of palpitations. You’re also supposed to see a gastroenterologist because you get sick more than anyone should. Your bell choir director contacts you at least once a week to see when you’ll be back. Your work expects you to make up your mind about your current employment by Feb. 5th.
BONUS CHALLENGE: Maintain a healthy relationship with your boyfriend.

I need this plate to disappear. Unrealistic. I need at least one thing on this plate to disappear… and that’s what I’m trying to figure out. There are consequences to dropping each item, yet the stakes seem to be greater if I do nothing. As of right now I’m unable to handle anything due to being entirely overwhelmed, so I exist in some kind of stasis, crying on the occasion that I realize what the hell’s going on.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to continue going to school this semester. My mom isn’t going to get better, my surgery won’t disappear, and my ankle will take at least a month to be strong enough to withstand my driving 40 minutes to school. However, if I stop going to school, I risk screwing up my financial aid, forfeiting my counseling, and making my mother unhappy… not to mention I’d be stuck in this house every day until God knows when.

I can’t win. There is no winning and losing… there is only this pile of shit on a plate, and I can’t throw it away no matter how hard I try. I’m exhausted and depressed and frustrated and barely hanging on to any type of positive emotion, which is sad because I like to think of myself as an optimist. After a certain point, though, it’s just not feasible.

What do I need?

I need a way out.

Coaster to Coast.

Roller coasters at their best. We expect some kind of relief, but the hills keep coming.
And the waves—oh, the waves!—splash over my head before I can take a proper breath.
But I love the ocean, and who doesn’t love the thrill of a coaster?
Coaster to coast I flit, whiplashed and tired.
Bob and sway, bob and sway.
Mayday, mayday!
Operator, stop the ride! I’m out of energy and tickets to spend.
I never remember walking onto the beach, stepping onto the pier with the ride that never stops.
Excuse me, miss, where are we? Sir, can you tell me time or place?
Faces blurring past, I think I catch yours but it’s gone.
This place has a vague quality to it, as if I’ve dreamt about it before,
but the edges are blurry, and even when I touch things they don’t feel real.
It’s all sensation.
The woman who sits next to me in the front seat whispers, “How do you feel?”
How do I feel?
“Tired,” I answer.
“That’s not a feeling,” she winks, and I know that I’ve been false.
But the motions tells her all I cannot say.
Motions conveying emotions—
A far more efficient conveyance.
Conveyor belts bring us higher and higher again
And I smile for a moment as the sea air hits me
Because though I still fear the waves I relish not being in them.
The smell is satisfying. It speaks of survival.

But I know what’s coming.

We climb until we think we’ll touch the clouds,
But the lurch comes and I’m facing the sea and I’m not ready.
We’re tipping and flying and falling and why aren’t we stopping?
Why aren’t we pointing upward again?
And then we cascade into the sea.
Waves return the favor by cascading over us.
Over me. Only me.
Were the others ever there?
I want to find them but the undertow requires my attention.
It tugs at my ankles, soft fingers locking around my legs and

I’m under and the water floods my eyes as memories pool behind them.
The taste of fear on my lips.
And the sea, I let her take me somewhere new.

—————

I recently lost my grandfather, and this came at a time in my life when I was finally setting out on the road of accepting and grieving my father’s death. I think this poem is my commitment to the journey–to not running away from it this time. Even though I am pained and afraid, I will make this trip to recovery. I know it’s what they would both want for me.

Reminders.

Last week I learned that my grandfather has advanced, aggressive cancer. He’s ninety, and he’s lived a good life, but neither of those facts make this easier on any of us.

This news comes at a time in my life when I’m finally working toward getting through my dad’s death. As I’ve said before, my father’s death is something from which I’ve been running for almost six years now, so to have this put on top of me when I’m finally trying to move forward makes the whole process feel that much more daunting. It’s just too similar. The waiting. The long, drawn-out agony of waiting for the death you’re so afraid of. I feel myself picking up pieces and sprinting as far away from this as possible, but I’ve already started my journey in the other direction, so it’s too much of a disservice to myself to abandon the effort and run away.

I’ve been led to remember some pieces from my past lately, mostly concerning my dad. I’m amazed by how little I remember about my childhood and those years in which grief fogged up my life. I’m startled as to how little I remember about him, but it makes sense. It’s a defense mechanism, sure, and I’m not sure if I’m ready to remember. I’m not afraid of what I’ll find–I know there are things in our past that are painful–but I think I’m more worried about the nostalgia that comes with the territory. If I remember what it was like, I might want that past to be my present again. That’s an impossibility, obviously, so why put myself through the pain of wanting something so completely unattainable?

I get that I should honor his memory just like I should honor the time my grandfather has left with us, but it’s all too painful and close to the surface at the moment. I’m dreading Father’s Day even more fervently this year than I usually do. My entire family is going out to lunch to honor my grandpa, which is a nice idea, but the restaurant they chose is the restaurant we went to right after my dad’s funeral. That is the only time we’ve been there as a family, and it’s pretty much the only time I remember ever being there. I don’t want to be back there, especially since it’s going to be another time of pain. It’s going to be hard for everyone, but it’s going to be the worst on me. On the surface that kind of sounds selfish, but for once I actually carry some kind of resentment and anger. It’s so unfair that my mom and her siblings have had their father for more than fifty years. I had mine for fourteen. It’s just not fair.

I hate that petty “it’s not fair” stuff because it doesn’t get my anywhere, but that’s where I am in relation to this process. I’ve never been allowed to be angry or frustrated or emotional. I realized only yesterday how silent I was forced to be in my dad’s death. Lawsuits really do complicate things, and I was taught to be suspicious of almost everyone. I was told not to talk about it, and somewhere along the line it really stuck. That’s at least part of the reason why thinking and talking about it now are so foreign to me.

This is all disjointed and not nearly as eloquent as I usually like my work to be, but nothing in the grieving process is neat and tidy. It bleeds over into everything, leaving stains and marks you try to scrub out but never truly can. There are no rights and wrongs, no do’s and don’ts, no map to follow. I find my journey is a series of starts and stops. I picture myself as a sprinter, but one that doesn’t have enough energy to clear the hurdles, so every time a hurdle appears in my lane, I crash into it. Then into another, and another, and another until I sit down and wait for my muscles stop aching enough for me to run again.

As I said before, everything feels too similar, and it’s jogging memories of what life was like when my dad was in the hospital. Yesterday I was reminded of how little support I had in high school, at least in the beginning. I lacked true support in a lot of ways, and I didn’t find really helpful people until my junior and senior years. By then a lot of the damage was done; I had taught myself how to suppress feelings and memories, so that support didn’t do as much as it would have when I was 14 and 15. This time around though, as someone was smart and kind enough to point out, I’m not alone. I do have an abundance of support at this moment in my life, so if ever there were a right time to work through grief, it’s now. My fear, as always, is overburdening other people, but right now my need for comfort far outweighs the guilt I might feel. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ll be able to repay them later somehow. I really have to believe that, and then I’ll feel more comfortable with what I need to do now.

I’m lucky, though, to have so much support. That’s what I choose to focus on a lot of the time, especially now when things seem to be so difficult. For now I’d rather write and think about the amazing relationships I presently have and how they’re helping me along. Later I’ll be able to think about the relationships that I’ve lost or are about to lose, but gaining strength is one of my main goals at the moment. I’ll do what I need to do to get there. I’m not weak by any means, but I’m not yet strong enough to clear the hurdles.

And you know what? Right now, that’s completely okay.