Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Selves

Two weeks ago, someone asked me if I was "starting to get myself back." It is a hard question and not one I hear very often. I hear, "How is your job?" "Do you like it?" That's mostly what I hear. And I say, "Good" and "Yes" and people nod and say, "Good." A puddle deep interaction when I am a great well of feelings, of which "good" is not one. So when Lori asked, "Are you starting to feel more like Chloe again?" I realized that that was a feeling I knew, a feeling I could point to and identify. When my hair finally starts to grow long and healthy, after years of breaking and flat-out refusing to endure, that makes me feel like myself. When I look in the mirror and don't feel compelled to suck in my stomach or cry, that makes me feel like myself. When I write a poem that sticks, a paragraph that could live on its own, without me, when I buy car insurance, when I dance until 4:00 a.m., when I hold my best friend's shoulders and kiss their cheeks, when I don't run or hide, when I get closer, when I stare back, when I climb down my fire escape at 10:00 pm to investigate a mysterious clicking, when the record plays and when it skips, when the phone rings and when it doesn't, I feel like myself.

The notion of unshakeable selfhood is, ultimately, ludicrous. To think you cannot be swayed, moved, or changed may be true—but what an empty, un-filling meal. The sand that gets into our shoes, that pisses us off, and doesn't seem to fully vanish until months after the beach, sands down the bottoms of our feet. We're left with something more permeable, more feeling, more raw. When I used to think of myself, I thought of someone who was steadfast and unrelenting. I pictured a woman who was devoted to her convictions and her ideologies, to her dreams and her plans, to her whims. Unrelenting whims, a phrase to sum up my life, thus far. Now, when asked to describe myself, I see my face in the mirror, smirking back at me. We share a secret world, a third space, between my body and the universe, a place I share with no one. A place, a room, of one's own. This is what I got all those months ago, when my heart was broken and my sense of self seemed as stable as dandelion fluff. I now know, that the dandelion fluff is not something to hate or condemn or mistrust. In the fluff, I find the empathy, the whimsy, the moments where not enough and not full do not exist. In between the pink glitter and the bare face, I find that there is room for both kinds of existence, there is space for both ideations of self.

"The future you're capable of imagining is already a thing of the past. Who did you think you would grow up to become? You could never have dreamt yourself up. Sit down. Let me tell you everything that's happened. You can stop running now. You are alive in the woman who watches you vanish." Dani Shapiro, Hourglass

You are alive in the woman who watches you vanish.  I've watched her vanish over passing months—I helped her leave. She left me with her dreams and wishes, which she had stuffed into a box labeled, "I don't know what the fuck to do with this." It took some convincing to share. As her skin stretched into mine, it became beautiful, bright, porous. Together we soaked in salt, slept with Stella and passed control between each other's hands. It became increasingly clear that she did not want it any longer, that she was tired, and no longer felt like fighting me. Often she would disappear for weeks at a time, I would not look for her. I would forget her, until she came storming into a room, sobbing and asking to use my phone.

"'I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, and who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.'" Joan Didion,  "On Keeping a Notebook"

I do more than nod to her; oh, how I admire her. She was so unconditional, fighting against the undercurrents of reality, in order to love her love, to have her dream. She didn't win though, she lived a life we could not maintain or sustain, and so ultimately, I watch her vanish, piece by piece, day by day. I am left with her good graces and her best wishes, I am left to carry on the dirge of living.

To return to the original question—

Did I get myself back? No and Yes. Yes and No. I got something else, a third thing. A face that is both familiar and new. A heart that is both bruised and valiantly beating. A soul that unfurls to fill the spaces, that cracks in order to receive light. I got the notion that there is no one self, no one tale, no one love, no one ending, but instead, facets, loopholes, grey areas, dimly lit corners, and sun-spangled meadows. There were books and there were boys, and but there was always me. Me, my best and dearest friend, my newest and oldest love. The secret I had been keeping all along, from myself, I gifted, to myself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

5 Stages

This morning I got a ticket for running a red light. Yes, the light was red, but it was yellow when I was in the intersection, and I think that should count for something. The cop told me to plead not guilty and to go to court and fight it, but I really just wanted to punch him in the face. I don't like cops. I feel that in a kind of universal way. Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule, but when enough cops have been assholes to you, you start to feel a certain way. I would like to take the time now to personally single out the cop who pulled me out of a snowbank in my Madrigal dress on my seventeenth birthday after I hit another car and spun the fuck out. He was a good cop and he didn't give me a ticket.

But besides that, my run ins with cops have been less than delightful. In their defense, I have not shied away from illicit activities, I have met them warmly and openly and thoroughly enjoyed them. I have always maintained that there earthly rules and ethereal people, and I am certainly not down here on earth with the laws. I wanted to cry today, to make the cop feel bad for me, and to hope that he would take pity on me. But I couldn't, I wasn't sad, I was fucking pissed. This marks a transition. If there are truly 5 stages of grief, I have experienced them all out of whack.

In the beginning, there was denial, as it's supposed to be, but not how I envisioned it. When my relationship ended, I had a solid two month period of wildness. I drank a lot, I went on dates, I went to work hungover and cried my way through. I saved my sadness for the quiet moments before I fell asleep or in the shower. I numbed it with attention and affection and a blunt refusal to see that my actions were prolonging the part where I'd feel it. Eventually I recognized the ways in which I was self-medicating, the unnecessary male attention, the excessive drinking, the refusal to eat or to do yoga like I usually do. I wanted to be reckless, I wanted to be broken, and I wanted that to be romantic. And it was, for a while, but soon enough, I just wanted to be me again.

When the bargaining came, I didn't recognize it either. I had finally recognized that I was still in love, that I still wanted that love, and I didn't care at what expense it came. And so I fought with the universe, and my friends, and my family, I fought because I thought something righteous was slipping through the cracks, I thought I was losing my soulmate and that if I let this happen, I would regret it forever. I ignored everyone's advice, I ignored all of the signs, and I ignored my own intuition. I thought that if I could will what I wanted to be true, eventually it would be. I still believe that, in some ways, but I think you have to be willing something you truly want for yourself and not something you have grown accustomed to wanting. I did try to go back, I tried to believe that that truth could be valid. But eventually the begging and the pleading and the wondering and the hoping started to feel false. I started to realize that whatever I was fighting for was never going to love me back the way I needed or wanted or deserved. And so the words shared started to matter less and the actions started to become more and more glaring.

I saw myself in two dimensions, the person I was inside of the relationship and the person I became when it ended. When I went back, I could feel my new self looking around and thinking what in the fuck? And eventually, as time passed, more and more of me felt like her. At this point I feel a steady ebb and flow between anger, depression, and acceptance. While my mind and body have accepted that my life is new, different, changed now for the better, there are still flare ups of sadness, doubt, and anxiety. There are still moments of rage. On Sunday night, I drove home from Ohio and cried the entire way, I haven't cried like that lately, but something in me needed to mourn, something in me was grieving. And there are still times when it scares me, when I am afraid that I'll never fall in love again, when I am afraid that I have failed somehow.

But I read an old poem I had written the other day that said this, "I loved with the entire spool of thread I was given, and then I loved beyond that." And that's what happened, I gave all of the healthy love I had to give and then when that wasn't enough, I started digging parts of myself out and using them as collateral. I wasn't whole, I wasn't healthy, and perhaps the most important thing to realize, is that I wasn't happy. So I guess this is acceptance. This is the part where the soil is no longer too toxic to grow inside of, the part where you can't steal bits of my soul just by looking at me the wrong way. This is the part where I remain a whole person regardless of what anyone says or does, regardless of whether or not I get pulled over for running a red light, my self worth remains intact.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Through Gratitude

About two months ago, my best friend and I started keeping gratitude journals. We were inspired by an Instagram post by one of our favorite authors, Stephanie Danler. She described a period in her early twenties when she and her best friend were having a time; she used the phrase, "Life was in session." Sara and I titled the email chain, "Life is in Session" and we began being grateful.

The first list hurt. It was two days before Thanksgiving break and my body felt like a sack of bricks that my sad/topsy-turvy mind had to drag throughout the rest of the week. I wrote to Sara that it felt hard to be grateful, that it hurt. A large part of me felt like I was grasping at straws, but while one part of me felt like she was dying, another part of me felt like she was blooming. Perhaps it was our deeply embedded studiousness or maybe it was a long, cultivated love for the other, but for some reason, we got really good at them. At first we sent them every day at 4:00 pm or so, just before work ended. If one forgot, the other remembered. I enjoyed writing mine, yes, but more often, I found that I was excited to read hers. When the lows swung low, I would return to the lists, I would read them again. I would laugh and cry and smile at the words we strung together, at the tiny sparkles that illuminated dark days. Every day, somehow or another, I knew that Sara was grateful for me and she knew that I was grateful for her. I don't know if there is a greater gift you can give to someone, than to let them know they are a gift to you.

The lists were rife with little tidbits, people who made us feel safe, food that made us feel inspired, weird stances that we took that were only significant for us. But they were also dotted with profound moments. Sara realizing that New York felt like home. Me realizing that I loved myself more than someone else. These moments were framed between Youtube videos and Instagram quotes, but I know that they will matter to me forever. I know that I will have a written record of my twenty-two year old self, her thoughts, her wishes, her fears, her dreams, her deepest insecurities, and her greatest triumphs, for the rest of my life. The gratitude became a way through; through the pain, through the healing, through finding myself, through loving myself, through hating myself. When I couldn't stop crying, when I couldn't get out of bed, I made a list. I scraped together bits and pieces of every day to be cherished. There were bad days when getting to #10 felt like a feat. But more and more, the gratitude became abundant. We had more to say and more to feel. We had more to cherish and more to be aware of. Our emotions expanded tenfold on either side of us, I can't speak for Sara, but I could feel myself opening up in every direction. I started to feel like a human mandala.

And it ebbs and flows. On Wednesday, I woke up and I didn't feel like going through the day. I felt like curling into a ball and crying and giving up and not getting dressed or brushing my teeth. But I didn't. I cried my way through showering and then I cried my way through brushing my teeth and then I wrote Sara a gratitude list and I felt capable again.

In Stephanie Danler's original post, she wrote, "I've been prescribed cures for hard times. Pills, walking, talking, sleeping, travel, exercise, all of which treat the symptoms. I have also tried cooking, drinking, dancing, drugs, sex. None of these fully work, though they do have their own rewards. I don't really believe there is a cure for sadness. But gratitude works. It's a tool. It's not an easy exercise. It's always a choice, in your ugly moments, start making that list. To start by being grateful for your hands, elbows, feet. For your books. For the weather."

It's true. There is no cure all for sadness, no ointment, no magic potion. In the beginning this overwhelmed me. I saw a long, dark passage of time ahead, I scraped at the walls. I tried to numb my way out of it until I realized, I just had to go through it, I just had to feel it. So now I'm in it, deep, embedded on all sides. And I crawl out of bed and do yoga and I spend all day talking to my best friends and I sleep in when I can and I take spontaneous trips and I also drink and dance too much. I lavish in the unknowing. I lavish in wondering what obstacles the day will bring, in knowing today won't look like tomorrow, and tomorrow won't look like the day after. And I think it is because I am grateful. I am grateful that I have the energy to write love letters, grateful that I am no longer afraid to take up space in a room. I am grateful for unconditional love, in all of it's many forms, from cats, from parents, from soulmates, from co-workers, from the universe. I am grateful to love the person that I am and have been and will be.

They do not tell you about the through period when you start this life, when you reach milestones. You graduate from college or leave your job or move to a new city or end a relationship, and people say, "You have so much ahead of you" or "It's gonna be amazing" or "This is the most exciting time of your life." And those things are all true, yes. But it's exciting because it's so fucking scary. The through period hurts. You feel yourself expanding on all sides and trying on lives that are fun but don't quite fit. You wake up on Tuesday and feel like the sun is shining out of your asshole and by 5:00 pm, you've hit a deer with your car and you just want to curl up in bed. There are moments when it feels too good to be true and moments when the pain feels insurmountable; everything comes and everything goes. The low lows are balanced by the high highs and the days in which you simply have a day, nothing profound, nothing inspiring. On these days, you are grateful for your hands.

One day it might make sense. Or it might not. Ever. Either way, you are gonna be okay. And then you will be more than okay. It helps to start by being grateful that you are.

"So here is the thing. It used to be everything, and now it isn't. Which is maybe why I don't feel like a black hole is sucking me up with all of my nutrients. I remember what it feels like/what it felt like. I see me now and know that we are different and also the same. I don't feel world weary, I just feel alive."

Monday, November 28, 2016

An Altar of Internal Validation

“Listen: In the future, there is a small, quiet room that is just yours, where you are safe and you are free. In that room your shoulders will finally start to come down from around your ears. Nobody can come into that room unless you let them. In that clean quiet place, you will work and you will study. You will love and you will heal. I know this is true because I am there with you. We are there together because you saved us. You saved us because you were brave and because you never stopped believing in that room. See you there, Your Future Self.” -Jennifer Peebas

I’m waiting for something to fall out of the sky and be marvelous. Because I am sad, and I want to not be any longer. This is a relatively desperate request I’m making to the Universe. Make me feel better, I’m not good at it today. The universe obliges me with some unnecessary chin pimples and an early period. There is a moment in sadness, especially in enduring sadness, where you start to feel that the rest of the world has gone on without you. In the beginning, when it is fresh, there is swooping in, there are grand gestures. Your loved ones worry about you cracking in half, and so they rush to your aid. But eventually you prove your strength, your ability to go on in spite of your bruises and more permanent scars. The world quiets and the dust settles, and you continue climbing the mountain. I watched a video the other day about a female artist who used her artwork to cope with her mental illness. When I tried to find her name again, I found that many of the great female artists throughout history have shared her methodology and her madness. When I feel my own demons batting at the walls of my brain, I can only write. An interesting curse. A double edged sword.

I have been thinking a lot about the word validation lately and what it means and why we need it and how we get it. Dictionary.com explains it simply: “to make valid; substantiate; confirm.” To look out into the world and ask am I real? And for something, someone, somewhere to respond, You are real. For most of my life, I have sought external validation. I have needed other people to tell me I am smart to believe that I am smart. I have needed other people to tell me I am beautiful to believe that I am beautiful. A lot of the comments I’ve measured myself against came from men; either my father or my brother or my male professors or men I’ve dated. There are some comments that I can strike down with ease--apathetically and without much affect--but there are other comments that I’ve clung to, placed inside a box full of things I know about myself, and things I wonder.

If I painted the meanest of these comments across my body, you’d see that the ones etched in blood, would be from men I loved more. Men who I wanted to believe in me, to see me; the realest me, curled up in a ball, in my glasses, typing ferociously into my computer, and only coming up for coke and laughter. I want nothing more than to scrub these words off my skin and be rid of them forever, to look at myself and see unmarked, untarnished flesh. But Mark Ruffalo and Elijiah Wood aren’t going to come into my bedroom in the middle of the night and erase all of my bad memories, and even if they did, I would probably just create them again.

If i imagine all of the negativity contained inside of a bucket, it is easy to visualize a thick black liquid sitting stagnant inside of it. It is easy to visualize myself picking up the bucket and pouring it in the street and letting the earth have its way with my demons. But the thick black liquid is not all contained inside a bucket, it is attached to parts of me. Each morning I imagine wringing myself out in the places that hurt that day. Some days it is all of me that needs wrung. I recall my best friend saying three months ago, “It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.” And here I am, just now realizing what she meant.

Rather than imagining all of the black liquid is gone, I must visualize something else, something that feels more realistic and more appetizing. I imagine that I am building an altar around myself. I light 42 candles. I fill a vase with lemon peels and water and pour it over my feet. We will be here for a while, and it will only be us. Nothing is going to fall out of the sky because whatever you are waiting for, you are going to build. Wholly. Completely. Unwaveringly. They will never be able to question your author or your muse. If you want to talk about validation, that’s fine, but know that it is going to come from within, until death do us part.

Do not consider it a period of isolation, consider it a period of cultivation. Inside we will write stories and make dinners, build dreams and read voraciously. We will not die, we will be born, again. And maybe it never ends, and maybe that is okay. And maybe the most romantic child who ever lived will learn to love herself. And when the sides of my thumbs are chewed raw and my heart is heavy with hate, I will go to this place, that I can only write my way out of, and I will bow myself to words. There are some altars that you stumble across and some you've always known. I feel this may be both.

Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
by Marty McConnell
leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong

they can smell it in the street.

Friday, October 21, 2016

On Belonging

Belonging is a funny word; it implies safety, padded rooms of people who love you surrounding you, building you up, crowd-surfing you to your best self. You walk into a room and you feel like you’re supposed to be there, you belong there. Last night I had a dream that I had mistakenly ended up walking onto a football field during a homecoming game with someone else’s family. I was terrified and anxious and clueless about how to proceed. I heard my name and looked up to see a cluster of my dearest friends, family, and mentors cheering my name—why they were there, I have no idea. But they were there, and that’s what counts. That’s what belonging feels like—being loved so wholly you know that the bottom won’t drop out. And even though it’s a leap of faith, it doesn’t feel like a leap at all.

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times, on the path that you have chosen, you could never experience fear or doubt again.” – Wayne W. Dwyer

For nearly four years, I belonged entirely to one person. I shared myself a little with my family, my friends, but for the majority of that time, I was his and only his. In the beginning, I was excited. This was movie love. This was sweep you off your feet, knock you over sideways, fill you up and tip you over love. I believed that all else could crumble around us and if we still had each other, nothing else mattered. “You can live with anything if you have what you can’t live without.” We belonged to each other so wholly that it became hard to belong to anything else—particularly myself.

My best friend’s mom once told me to “be my own girl.” I’ve mulled that phrase over a lot, especially lately. What does it mean to belong to yourself wholly, entirely? What does it feel like? I can tell you that sometimes it means putting your foot down, slamming doors, burning bridges. I can tell you that sometimes it means you must hold yourself as you fall asleep—or in my case, you can be held by a tiny white cat who has a lot of unconditional love to give. Sometimes belonging to yourself means you make the choice to care about yourself more than another—which you may know as selfish, but can re-learn as self-preservation. Sometimes, as my mom recently reminded me, it’s that No is a full sentence.

I am still romantic. I believe in all of it. In spite of what I want to think and feel about love, I still think it’s magic. But I’m beginning to see that falling in love with another person is not the only kind of magic we can touch. When you finally get your full blown big girl job, benefits and all, that is touchable magic. When you find a way to prioritize your passion every day, in my case writing, that is touchable magic. When your roommate brings home Oreos and ice cream after you bleed through your dress at work—touchable magic, people.

Belonging hurts, because we don’t necessarily belong to people forever. We almost never belong to people forever. But that is magic in and of itself. To know and grow beside someone, to learn a little more about the world through them, and to then go your separate ways, it hurts, but it is magic.

I belong to a 1 year old cat, a 10 year old dog, a 16 year old cat, and a 23 year old woman. They are my team and my family. I belong to my writing, even though I don’t know the tangible trajectory it will take, I commit myself to it wholly. I belong to my parents, of course, and my brother and sister. I belong to a few amazing women who provide me with the perfect amount of discretion and freedom to blatantly ignore their advice. 

But for the most part, I am mine. I wake up in the morning and have no idea what I’m going to do or be or see. The plans that once structured my life so wholly have caved. What a pretty, structurally unsound house we were building. I opened the front door to a house with no insulation, no siding, no foundation, no roof, just a skeleton house. I opened the front door and started running. And now I’m walking. Occasionally I look over my shoulder, and I see it. That pretty, pretty house that could never be. My imagination fills in the pieces that were never there, and I see now, better than ever before, that those pieces would have always been a figment of my imagination.

Each morning I shake hands with a new version of myself, I am just getting to know her. But I like her. Even when she is reckless. Even when she is sad. Even when she is all over the place. Sometimes simply liking yourself feels like a revolutionary act.



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fucked Up


“The fact that you’re struggling doesn’t make you a burden. It doesn’t make you unloveable or undesirable or undeserving of care. It doesn’t make you too much or too sensitive or too needy. It makes you human. Everyone struggles. Everyone has a difficult time coping, and at times, we all fall apart. During these times, we aren’t always easy to be around—and that’s okay. No one is easy to be around one hundred percent of the time. Yes, you may sometimes be unpleasant or difficult. And yes, you may sometimes do or say things that make the people around you feel helpless or sad. But those things aren’t all of who you are and they certainly don’t discount your worth as a human being. The truth is that you can be struggling and still be loved. You can be difficult and still be cared for. You can be less than perfect and still be deserving of compassion and kindness.” -Daniell Koepke

I feel like for the past 4 weeks, I have said, "I'm fucked up" far too many times to count. I've always had this sort of twisted ideology swirling around being damaged to the point where love becomes impossible for others. It's a test of sorts. Part of me believes I am unworthy of love, so part of me projects this onto other people by telling them I'm too messed up to love. I have realized though, that I am really, deeply loved by enough people that I feel like a cloud floats beneath me. They peel back the layers of my decided fucked-up ness and soak them in warm, lavender scented bathwater. They brush my hair, they wipe my tears, they fill up what my mother would call the love tank. 

When people used to talk about self care, I would listen, nod, and smile. For a long time, I convinced myself that waking up at 6:00 a.m. to do yoga before work was a strong enough act of self care that I could prioritize a million other things over my own well being for the rest of the day. This is not self care or if it is, it's twisted by my own nonsense. Self care has become crucial to me over the past few weeks though. When the bottom drops out of your life, you, shockingly, have to continue existing. Suddenly, I feel keenly responsible for my happiness, for my emotional well-being, and for my ability to make it through the day. I make myself get out of bed, I make myself do yoga, I make myself eat, I make myself laugh, and at some point there is a wave of relief and stillness that falls around me. The letting is important too. I let myself cry. I let myself feel all of the nasty things that come with a break up. I let myself try things I'm afraid of. I test my limits and reevaluate. 

I meditate. I repeat the phrase, "You are enough." I listen to just a handful of songs. When I'm feeling risky, I listen to someone else's music. This is almost always helpful. I go to work. I do my hair. I douse myself in coconut oil. I realize I have gone several days without crying. I feel compelled to dance. I remember that I like to sing and so I sing freely. I remember that I like to read and so I read freely. I remember that I've always wanted to go to New York and so I start to try. I realize that I never disappeared, I merely buried myself under someone else's shit.

We dust our demons off. We dance to Nicki Minaj and we drink maybe too much. Maybe just enough. 

I feel 22 for the first time in a long time. I feel like the world has unfurled and opened itself up to me. And all I had to do was look past my circumstances and into what I wanted next. There are times when I feel selfish and I must remind myself that I have been given a gift, a chance, a choice; the option to leave behind the things that I thought I was permanently attached to. This recognition is an act of self care as well. I recognize my own physical and emotional strength, to start each day anew, to learn to be and to breathe and to live in a totally different way. When sadness comes, and it does here and there, all I have to remember is how well I can take care of myself, better than anyone else ever could or would. I am mine and only mine, I don't have to share myself anymore.

So this morning, I cry, I tell my roommate, "I'm too fucked up," and she says, "You're not fucked up. You're not fucked up at all." And I let myself believe her. Despite everything, despite what I've lost and what I've gained, despite what I'd been taught to believe about myself, I let myself believe that I'm not too fucked up for anything, not for happiness, not for success, not for any kind of love. I deserve love, every bit of it, especially from myself.

We all deserve it. Despite what anyone says or thinks or makes you feel about yourself. You deserve all the love that will befall you, every bit. Know yourself. Love yourself. Accept gifts. Accept love. Believe in an inherent goodness within people, despite all of the reasons you have not to. Keep going, it gets better. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Freefall

I wrote an instruction manual for putting yourself back together almost three years ago. I'm not sure where it came from, I know I wasn't terribly sad at that point in time, but I built something for myself to return to when I was too far gone. Three days ago, my life changed in a way that I had been trying--and failing--to prevent for a while now. I tried to cope, I tried to fill a void that felt immeasurable, and I kept coming up for air, feeling like I had drowned, or died. My best friend pulled me out of my abysmal sadness and into her little white bean car that has rescued me countless times.

When I told her I was going to dye my hair blue and call myself Chrysanthemum, the flower of death, She sent me the link to that instruction manual, and reminded me that I'd written it. I read it. A few times. I cried and wondered how a nineteen year old me had provided such a fitting manual to cope with the present pain that felt like it was searing through my chest. I wondered how she was so wise and how I was so clueless. Then for some reason, Elephant Journal shared the article once more, and I received a new flood of sweet, beautiful people reaching out across the void and telling me they found solace in my words. Me, this ruptured pile of emotions, had somehow provided some comfort to people on the worst day of my fucking life. I thought about reaching out to people and felt too weak to do so. Within three days, each person I'd longed to tell but feared to burden, had somehow known to reach out. My friends filled my ears and my heart and my inbox with words they'd diminish as cliched and obvious. But they were saving me. They were healing me. Over and over and over again. With words.

This morning, I received an email from Notes From the Universe (I'm sure many of you did as well) that said this:

Chloe, it's time you step forward to claim whatever it is that you want from life. 

Just remember, the gate keeper who will give it to you is the same gate keeper who has kept it from you, gorgeous. 

Good thing, 
    The Universe

I was riding the bus to work for the first time in a long time and feeling profoundly small. I felt people looking at me as I tried to make it seem like I wasn't crying when I was obviously crying. I felt my phone vibrate and while searching for something else, I read this and realized, better yet, remembered once more, that there is something vibrating inside of me. There is something strong, profound, ever-expanding, and incandescent that is growing within me. For a long time, I turned that thought off, I shut that hope down, and I willed myself to take up less space, to be less of what I was, what I still am.

I told my sweet Sara this morning, that instead of increasing, my anxiety was shrinking. I walked down the street yesterday and looked at beautiful people for what they were, remarkable. I felt untethered to the emotions that had sunken my shoulders and left shadows beneath my eyes. I was floating. And also falling. Ebbing and flowing between what feels like all-consuming emptiness and freedom. I am shaken up and shaken out. I don't know what I'm stepping forward into, only that it has felt like stepping off a cliff and that I am now suspended in a glorious and excruciating free fall.

There will be moments in time throughout this life where our deepest certainties abandon us. When we woke up seeing things one way and must go to sleep seeing them anew. It will feel like swimming through concrete and pulling off your fingernails one by one. It will feel reckless, wild, and sad, over and over again. No one will say the right thing and you will be sure that the feeling in your chest will end you. Pockets of clarity will come. Unconditional love will save you. And that has to come from inside of you. You have to believe that the person you are is worth climbing this mountain of grief, to get to the other side, to continue to be and love and live and grow.

I will resist the urge to be reckless. I will resist the urge to believe I am lacking. I will take deep breaths when it consumes me and trust that I'll make it out to the other side. I will understand the impermanence of everything. I read this now and know that the hard work of becoming is slated in front of me. 


It's time to put myself back together.