Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Lately, I always have the sneaking suspicion that I'm forgetting something, like I left my ID at the bus stop or my contact case on a sidewalk somewhere or my whole identity in the trashcan where I threw my morning coffee away. It's certainly a symptom of rushing, of running from one place to the next, of living out of a backpack, of forgoing a couple hours of sleep and hoping for the best. It's also, as I've found, just part of being 20 and having no idea what comes next. I learned today that the adolescent brain doesn't finish developing until 25, so maybe I'm just forgetting useless shit I've picked up over the last twenty years. They say, "Your twenties are for finding yourself" and "No one else knows what they're doing either." But no one ever tells you how scary, how unsettling the finding can be.

I've realized that the thing I've lost, the forgotten item in my bag, is my plan. Y'know, like what I'm going to do with the next X number of years (just throw a number out there--I will have no idea no matter what you say). I have no plan that goes further than one semester tops. And this is why I'm constantly digging through my purse, my backpack, my bra, etc. yelling, "WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GO?" Because I want to know, plan, where the fuck did you go? So now, after the approximately eighty third mental breakdown I've had over the rest of my life, I have a list that I consult. This is called the mental breakdown list, the finding yourself list, the default bad-day list, the I have no idea what you're supposed to do either list. It's called the being 20 list and I started it shortly after I wrote this very depressing haiku (I know it's not a real haiku, it's just a tiny poem, leave me alone): 

Being 20

It is the first realization that
No, maybe everything won’t be okay,
The first chill down your spine from
Something that isn’t fingertips.

So now that you have a rough sketch of how sad I get when I'm in the future dark and you haven't run away from this, I'm assuming that you too are in the future dark or that you are a sadist. Either way, here is my list; this is how I fill the void that my missing plan has left.

A List for Mental Breakdowns/Bad Days/20 Somethings/Lost Plans

1. Breathe

2. "don't seek, don't search, don't ask, don't knock, don't demand--relax. if you relax, it comes. if you relax, it is there. if you relax, you start vibrating with it." -0sho

3. What can you do today that helps you feel better?
-Sometimes the answer to this is just homework/some of my reading, but doing my homework and my reading always makes me feel better, stronger, and smarter.
-Sometimes the answer to this is just researching career/grad school/fellowship options that I would like to do one day.
-Sometimes the answer to this is working out.
-Sometimes the answer to this is writing.
-Sometimes I can't find the answer, I can't figure out what will make me feel better about the future, so I try to remember that the present is what matters, because it is all I have right now.

4. Call your mom.
-She probably knows you better than you know yourself, and she was once a twenty something with no idea what she would do next with her life, too.

5. Recognize happy moments
-I often find myself smiling for no good reason, because I'm just happy. This is special and important because it is a significant reminder that having a plan is not the key to happiness. I write these moments down or write something in these moments or write to someone in these moments, it immortalizes the happy. There are too many goddamn epic tragedies, there should be more immortalized happy moments.

6. Do high kicks for yourself.
-Guess what? Everyone else is just as wrapped up in their own shit as you are. Sometimes the down ass bitch you're looking for is you. So celebrate your wins, write yourself a love note, and for god's sake, stop beating yourself up.

7. Do high kicks for your ride or dies.
-Ride or die: (as told by Urban Dictionary) the people in your life who are there through thick n thin. they'll do what it do to make it through with you. the ones that'll stick it through till the end
-so when you read that, you definitely thought of some people, right?
-When I think of ride or dies, I think of my boyfriend, my best friends, I think of my family, in every sense of the word. It doesn't matter who your ride or dies are or how long they've been around, what matters is, they love you like no other. They've seen you at your lowest, your highest, and every stage in between, and they think you're awesome.
-So do high kicks for them! Celebrate their victories, pick them up when they're down, make sacrifices for them, hold their hand, wipe their tears, be a ride or die to your ride or dies. Remember that they are struggling in one way or another too. Every day, spend time thinking of how you could brighten their day.

8. Do stupid things.
-Be careful, obviously because "the decisions you make now affect the rest of your life," I didn't say that, some rational fun sucker did but still, it can be kind of true.
-But make mistakes, screw up, do the thing that you're scared to, have one night stands, skip a class to dance around in your underwear and drink wine, and don't regret it.
-I have packed an impressive amount of regrettable things into twenty years, but guess what? I love them, they defined me way more than the A+'s did. They gave me life experience, scars, and knowledge. I don't want to just be someone who did awesome in all her classes and got awesome scholarships and opportunities, because they are a dime a dozen now a days. I want to be her with a twist.

9. Leave surprises for yourself.
-Forgotten chocolate in your backpack or a post it note that says "you are a magic fairy princess" (or whatever makes your heart sing) can change the course of a lifetime (I believe this).

10. Change your standards for good days.
-When I was 17, I thought that a 'good day' was a day where everything went perfectly and I bounced my rosy cheeks into bed with a smile.
-Now, I usually base the phrase 'good day' off of whether or not I have had enough coffee :)

11. Don't feel guilty for drowning in happy
-Or as Charles Bukowski said, "Find what you love and let it kill you. "
*My boyfriend, olives, giggling with my mooncats, my mini magic family, and writing. Oh and cats.*
-The things that make your heart sing needn't make you feel guilty, they are your special things, you deserve the happiness they give you :)

12. Let go
-Regardless of what you believe in, I think we've all figured out that we don't control the universe.
-It is random and catastrophic and purposeful and exquisite depending on the angle.
-Embrace the unpredictability. Embrace the chaos. Make it into a pair of earrings and wear it when you're feeling out of control. 
-So...let go of the plan, the path, the bulleted list you wish would make itself known. Maybe it will come and maybe it won't. Maybe it will be a lot of trying and failing until something works. Maybe on round 1, you'll get it right. Maybe you never will get it right, but right is just a social construct so fuck it anyway. 
-Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. 
-Make yourself proud; your ten year old self, your sixteen year old self, your now self, and your future self. Maybe not all at the same time. Also, remember when you were ten, you were a member of DARE, so don't take that super seriously. 
-And remember, always remember, that you are never alone and you never have been. No matter how heavily the walls are caving in on you from all sides, no matter how convinced you are that you'll never figure it out, remember, we are here too, and we get it. We totally fucking get it. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Taking Up Space.

"Don't worry about your body. 
It isn't as small as it once was, 
But honestly, the world 
needs more of you. 
You look in the mirror 
like you've done something wrong,
But you look perfect.
Anyone who says otherwise
is telling a lie 
to make you feel weak.
And you know better.
You've survived every single day,
for as long as 
you've been alive.
You could spit fire
if you wanted to."
-Clementine von Radics

I read this poem the other day. Not long after my boyfriend told me about a TED talk he watched about body language, in which the woman discussed how women are constantly trying to make themselves feel smaller. Then I thought of this slam poem by Lily Meyers called Shrinking Women, and there was also the thing Julie said about how men never feel compelled to apologize for the space their bodies take up. And the more things that popped into my mind, the more that followed, like an avalanche of moments that have created mindsets that can destroy us:
'As a woman, you should take up as little space as possible.' 
'You are an inconvenience.'
'You are fat.'
'You should apologize for the extra space, the extra time, the extra energy you consume.'
'You are a guest in this world, be polite.'
'Be a lady.'
and on...and on...and on...

As a woman, you are born and you are given a name and you are given a bed and an existence. You have space that belongs to you, you are a person. And then you start to go out into the world and experience things and listen to the words people tell you and start to form opinions and observations and beliefs. And somewhere along the way there is a moment when you are a little girl playing in the dirt with your legs splayed and someone big tells you, "That isn't very ladylike," or "You shouldn't sit that way." Of course, because little girl underwear or--god forbid--vaginas, are the scariest things that have ever existed. And later you are sitting somewhere with your legs crossed--because that's how women should sit--studying and eating your favorite snack, and someone says, "Do you really think you should be eating that?" Because you shouldn't want to put things you like to eat in your mouth, you should just want to be as thin as possible. And there are all of the moments in between, where people tell you you hit, "Like a girl" or that you stuff your bra or that you are flat chested or your stomach sticks out or your thighs are too big or your ass is too big or you will never be a skinny girl, you just aren't made that way or that you can't be smart and pretty or that you should do X, Y, & Z to make a boy like you and that you won't be good at math or science because you have a vagina, and again, those are always messing shit up. And you start to get it, you start to think the way I am is wrong, I need to be skinnier, I need to take up less space, my everything is too big. I mean look at the women we see in magazines and billboards and advertisements for our entire lives; it is hard to see a woman in these mediums and not look inward. But these are pictures, not people. 

And it doesn't matter if a boy ever poked your stomach and called you the pillsbury dough girl or if your mom was obsessed with her weight, because somewhere along the way, you probably learned to pray for smallness. And no, being thin is not a bad thing--it is just a thing, being small, however, is a bad thing. I don't mean small bodies, though, I mean small spaces, small minds, small goals, small journeys, small dreams, small areas to grow inside of. When we are constantly worried about shrinking our bodies, shaping them certain ways, we don't realize the toll that it can take on our minds. You train yourself to eat less, weigh less, and eventually you let yourself become less. We push ourselves into corners because we think that makes it easier on others, more convenient, but in reality, we would just be letting ourselves vanish. To let yourself vanish is an incredible disservice to the world. Your life can be epic, it can be massive, and huge, and no, those are not bad words, they are good words. They convey mass and size and complexity and depth; they define lives that inspire us to reach beyond what we can fathom.

You were born and you were given a name and you were given a bed and an existence. You have a space that belongs to you, you are a person, so be a person, a whole, crazy, rollercoaster, lifetime, huge person. Be selfish, sometimes. Be imperfect. Eat too much, drink too much, and stop apologizing for it because YOU ARE A PERSON. Say things because you thought of them and that makes it unique. Stop being so hard on yourself, stop trying to make your body look like someone else's because it is your body and no one else can love it and take care of it the way you do. The way you treat your body will determine how everyone else in the room treats it, so treat it well, respect it, own it, validate it. Love your thighs and your dimples and the way your body feels when you're dancing and when you're giving a presentation and reading a poem. Love your silly days and your hungry days and your scared days and your angry days, and don't think that they make you weak; they make you real. Love your hair with roots and your legs with stubble and your face without make up and your hands covered in dirt or paint or blisters or calluses. Be proud of what you've accomplished and then push for more, because you can get more, if you want it. You can be soft but you can also be tough as nails, don't ever forget that.  Don't say sorry for things you don't owe someone an apology for, like walking into a room or asking a question or interjecting in a conversation or when someone bumps into you or not having room in your schedule for everyone else's shit. Don't say sorry for existing. Take up space, the space you want, claim spaces, find bigger spaces, create new spaces, own your space and don't give it up for anything, it belongs to you and you are the only person who can fight for it. 

"You know what's really, powerfully sexy? A sense of humor. A taste for adventure. A healthy glow. Hips to grab on to. Openness. Confidence. Humility. Appetite. Intuition. Smart-ass comebacks. Presence. A quick wit. Dirty jokes told by an innocent-looking lady. A woman who realizes how beautiful she is." -Courtney E. Martin

Saturday, July 26, 2014

For my meemsy.

My darling angel mother Marybell (as many mistakenly call her) invited me to answer some questions as part of a Blog Tour she is doing. I am not going to pretend to know or understand what is happening or what this entails because I really don't. I am going to answer these four difficult (SO DIFFICULT) questions because I love my mom and she asked me to and sometimes I like to give people what they ask for. In reality, I am just inviting you into the barrage of bullshit that is my life, so have a great peek behind the curtain, it is rare and alarming and will give you something to gossip to your palz about or maybe--just maybe--what's behind my curtain will make you feel better about what's behind yours.

1. What am I working on?

I am working on this lengthy, confusing pile of insanity that I sometimes, when feeling confident, refer to as a novel. I don't like to announce that in public because than people feel welcome to say asinine things like, "So hows your novel coming?" which, on the wrong day, at the wrong time, could send me into orbit. Its some angsty, twenty something, science fiction. I don't know what I am going to do with it, I just know I like writing it. I also have two running poetry documents that I have been adding to a lot lately, one theme is 'how I feel today' and the other is looooooooove--SURPRISE. So I suppose until I have a million papers to write come the fall, that is what I'm working on. :)

2. How does my work differ from others of it's genre?

It is mine, so it sounds like me and not someone else. Also, I probably say fuck more.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I don't talk excessively, I would say I spend more time listening and observing, and that is because I write. I write because that's how I understand the world, as my mother said, that's how I process things. I am always writing, especially in my head. If you read my notepad on my phone you would feel like you were reading a diary or some weird quote book. Some people say that writer's watch and remember everything rather than experience everything, but I would say that writing helps to make things real for me. Sometimes I worry that if I don't write something down it will disappear and become more of a dream than a moment. I write what I write, and I always say this, because it is what I am good at.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

I wouldn't call it a process really, more like shit hitting the fan. Sometimes when I read something that hits me in the right place I get really inspired and could write nonstop for hours but a lot of days it feels like pulling my teeth out with pliers. In that, I just mean that writing can be really agonizing sometimes, especially when you don't know where to go next. I guess I don't really think of writing in a scientific way, there is no method or organization or systematic process to my writing, it is my escape from all of those things. I write because something inside me always wants to, I never hate it. I do sometimes wish that I could've been really good at something that makes for an easier career, but that would probably bore me anyway. For me, writing is just something that is necessary and relaxing, like running or sleeping or alone time. When it comes, it is always exactly what it needs to be that day.

If you couldn't tell, I am not the exceedingly kind, welcoming butterfly that my mother is. I love you, Mary Swan-Bell. Thank you for your invite :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

There is stuff all over the floor and I don't know where to put it


July is five days away and I haven't written a blog post since April. You see, my plan was to travel to Taiwan and Brazil, mold myself into the ideal version of the woman I've been steadily on my way to becoming, and then come home and write this earth shattering blog that proves just how different I am.

It's not that I am not different, I certainly am, it's just that I'm different in ways I didn't plan for. You see, it used to seem all about leaving a mark on the world that couldn't be erased, to do something so important that for decades after, little girls would be motivated to follow in my footsteps. I used to think I was unique and special and that I had something magic inside of me that was going to make things better, globally.

In the past two months, I've learned that globally is a really, really big word because it is a really, really big world that can feel very teeny or overwhelmingly huge depending on the angle. There is a song by the Old 97's, that says, "Some day somebodys gonna ask you a question that you should say yes to, once in your life." I always dreamed of my question and thought it would be different than all the other questions, like some real profound shit. But I've realized that life isn't one huge question like some people would like you to believe, it is a million different questions and some of them feel huge and some sound like, How sweet do you want your tea? But they all mean something. Most questions relate to our survival in some way or another, and by survival I mean the way we manage to continue to exist even when we are assholes and exist in the best way possible for ourselves.

What I'm getting at is this: maybe there isn't going to be one remarkable question for me, one job opportunity, one career, one degree, one book, one journey, one person, one experience that puts it all into place, that makes the stars align, and my jaw drop, and all of my wildest, fairy, mermaid dreams come true. One by one they will chip away at the girl I was always told I needed to be in order to become a better person. When I was gone, there were so many times I wanted to say no, to stay inside of my comfort zone, to snuggle up in a hotel bed and sleep until I got home. But something inside kept making me say yes, I guess the fear of the regret that would ensue if I passed up an opportunity I may never get again. And so I did all sorts of absurd shit that I will never forget and now I can use a machete and kind of drive a speedboat and make a caipirinha and build a palm leaf roof and ask people invasive questions and be wildly illiterate and eat little baby squid mouths (RIP) and so much more. I left a huge piece of my heart in Taiwan and I guess a little in Brazil. I guess, after all of it, the most special thing I've learned is that every life has an impact and a meaning; that the people who don't go down in history for being saviors sometimes lead far kinder lives, it is more special to make people feel safe and loved than to show the world what you're capable of. I don't care about being remembered or being profound like I used to, I don't have enough time to worry about getting my name etched in a plaque. I care about making people feel better, brighter, lighter, more capable, because there really should be more of that feeling to go around. 

I learned just how important companionship can be, whether it's the group of students who were willing to sacrifice their time to translate for us, the remarkable women I spent my time abroad with, the amazing entrepreneurs who shared their time, stories, love, and talents with us; the people who loved me while I was away from my loved ones. 

On a Sunday afternoon, we pulled up to a pepper stand on the side of a mountain in Hualien, Taiwan owned by an older couple. She was canning while he was cutting and seasoning; we had a huge language barrier between us, but she happily fed us the best hot peppers I've ever eaten. As we ate enthusiastically, sloppily with chopsticks, she brought out more and more delicacies, thoroughly enjoying our pleasure. We couldn't buy anything from her because we wouldn't have been able to get the jars through customs, but nothing about her actions made it seem like she ever expected us to buy it, she was just sharing her wonderful food with some wandering foreigners. 

And so, it has become less about the New York Times Bestseller's List and more about poems and stories that make people feel less alone in their feelings, less about doing the "right" thing and more about doing the thing that makes us feel good, less about a flawless resume and more about learning something from everyone I meet, less about tomorrow and the next day and more about the next hour. 

And now, I'm home, and there is stuff all over the floor and I don't know where to put it. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Words on Bathroom Stalls

I don't have time to write this blog; I have two huge papers to write and finals in two weeks and a lot. of. shit. to. do. But I have to write it, I have to write it right now, in the middle of Women in Science Fiction because I am so pissed off. At Everyone. You are all really pissing me off. Those of you who read that sentence and thought, "OK, Bitch." You just keep your ass and eyes firmly planted where they are because we need to talk. I keep seeing these depressing posts floating around the internet, like the Depressing Rules of Modern Dating or some shit and everybody is getting all bent out of shape about them.

Number One: Since when did we decide internet blogs are the end all be all of fucking knowledge (everything you read in this blog is now discredited and I don't care because its one person's fucking OPINION)? Somehow there is this weird phenomenon that when something gets written down it is then set in stone. Like it was never as hurtful in high school to be called a fucking slut to your face than it was to read it on a bathroom stall. That shit is more permanent, but no more true. That being said, reading a blog that says all of these really negative things about dating, doesn't make all of those really negative things about dating true.

Number Two: All of these theories, all of these negative scenarios and thoughts, happen. They do, I'm not going to lie and say that they don't because they do, more often than I'd like. But there is something incredibly problematic about writing them down and calling them rules and saying that they are the truths of modern dating. These "rules" just perpetuate all of the things people don't like about modern dating. When you give someone a list of rules, they feel this inner pull to both tell you to fuck off and to follow the rules. I, clearly, am more inclined to tell you to fuck off. If you see a list of rules that make you think, "Wow, this is all pretty screwed up, I wish things weren't this way," don't follow those rules. There are lots of things wrong with our government's set of rules that people have no problem questioning all the time, so if you are so vehemently disgusted by these modern rules of dating, why not oppose those too?

All of that venting aside, I am not going to blog a list of rules or "facts" about the state of modern dating. Yes, it is a shit show, but hey, we are all in this shit show together, unless you don't date, then wipe your brow casually (you dodged a bullet) and back away slowly. I am simply going to list my thoughts about dating. I don't think I know anything special about dating; if you know my dating history, you know it is relatively interesting. If you know who my parents are, you know I know a lot about what enduring relationships look like. And if you about my relationship, you know that I am very blessed. This is simply commentary and maybe it will make someone out there feel better knowing that the entire dating community has not resolved itself to accepting the "rules."

1. Talk. Talk a lot. To the person you are dating/thinking about dating/going on dates with/making out with in a semi-serious way and not about it with other people. Sure, you can talk to your friends about your relationship, but when you have a problem or an issue or a question, that's something you should talk to the person who is experiencing this relationship with you about. So much of dating nowadays is shrouded in mystery, when really it could be simple. Don't speculate with your friends about what some action/phrase/text/look could mean, simply say, "Hey you did this thing and it made me feel this way," and then see how your person reacts. That removes 90% of the drama that comes with relationships now a days. Just sit down and have a good old fashioned hash-out of all the shit that comes and goes when you invest emotions and trust in another person. Talk about your intentions and talk about their intentions, clearly outlining what your intentions are (i.e. whether you want to date or only hook up) could save you from forming the wrong kind of expectations. Hook up culture is rampant, and sometimes problematic, but I think if you clearly outline with someone that all you want out of a relationship is sex, then you are preventing a world of disappointment.

2. Don't put people into boxes. If one guy does one thing, that doesn't mean all guys are going to do the same thing to you. His actions certainly do not speak for all males. If one woman hurts you, it certainly doesn't mean all women are out to rip out your heart. Most importantly, think of yourself. Have you ever hurt someone? Chances are you have, and chances are, you don't think of yourself as a horrible monster (if you do, stop that). People hurt other people, it's a fact, it's an unavoidable truth of life, no matter how good or honest our intentions, feelings and emotions happen and we can't control them. The love(s) of your life will hurt you and you will hurt them. Relationships endure hurt, they have to, or else no one would ever be in a relationship, we'd all be breaking up with each other every day. Do not make your present person pay for the mistakes of your past persons, that is not their burden.

3. Love doesn't have anything to do with power, power has everything to do with control and games. Thus, if your relationship is a fucking video game, then yeah, you might win. But don't you want to care about someone and feel them caring about you? Isn't that the point of interacting with other human beings? So if you text someone first, that means you aren't in control, that they have power over you? Let's skew that perspective. You text someone first, cus you want to hang out, you want to see how their day is going, there is something you'd love to discuss with them, you miss them, you love them, to see their name across your phone would make your day. I can only speak for myself, but I know I have been miserable wanting to hear from someone and felt like I couldn't text them first because then I would be relinquishing power. But I have learned that texting/calling/reaching out to someone first is actually incredibly brave, it means putting yourself out there and possibly never hearing back. Plus, when you reach out to someone else, you make peace with the part of yourself that is so afraid of rejection. Rejection doesn't kill you, it actually makes you stronger.

4. The reason labels are scary goes back to the power thing. Attaching a label to your relationship is often equated with relinquishing some power. But what is really being relinquished? Your ability to sleep with whomever you want, whenever you want? Okay, if you want the freedom to sleep with anyone you want, then you probably wouldn't want to attach yourself to one person anyway, and if the person you attached yourself to only wants you to sleep with them, then they should probably be with someone who only wants to sleep with them. I've never been polyamorous, but there are people who are, who love it, so if you want to do that and still be in a relationship, I'm sure there is someone out there who is willing to be your partner in that. If you want to be in a monogamous relationship and your partner doesn't, the two of you have a huge gap in relationship preferences. And that's okay, that doesn't make them a bad person and it doesn't make you needy, it just means you want different things. You will meet a person, maybe multiple people, who are on the same page with you, not about everything but about your dealbreakers.

5. You shouldn't change. As people we grow up and we experience things and we change without even thinking about it. But, you should never feel that you have to stifle yourself, shut a part of yourself off in order to make someone else happy. You shouldn't have to feel that you need to look a certain way/act a certain way/talk a certain way to make someone else love you. Because then, isn't it just a kind of lying? You should talk how you feel good talking. You should dress how you feel good dressing. You should eat how you feel good eating. You should do things that make YOU proud of YOU. Do not make yourself into someone else to please a person you love, if they want you to be someone else, they are not in love with YOU and you will only end up resenting them for all of the changes you have made. Love does mean sacrifice and it does mean compromise, but it should never mean sacrificing or compromising your identity. A person who loves you the way you deserve to be loved will fall in love with all of your parts, the scary ones, the dirty ones, the ones you keep under lock and key, they will love even the parts of you that make them crazy, because they are yours.

6. I am a hopeless romantic. I always have been and I probably always will be. When I read the truths of modern dating, it makes me sad because I know that these things are common and that they do happen all the time. I don't have rose-colored glasses on and I don't think our culture perpetuates very many good ideas of love. I know that people tell little girls that they need to keep their legs closed if they want someone to love them, I know that people tell little boys that powerful men have lots of sex with lots of women. I know that girls often grow up watching romantic comedies where women are constantly analyzing the actions of men. I know that boys often grow up watching action movies where men are carrying out actions while women are applauding these actions/being sexy. I know that so much of our society is problematic and perpetuates that not giving a fuck is the coolest.

I don't think that it means we can't have authentic, special encounters with eachother.

There will be people who you only ever hook up with once, or twice, or three times. There will be people who you have really long, awesome phone conversations with that sadly never turn into anything more. There will be people who treat you like shit who you love the shit out of anyway. There will be people who lie to your face. There will be people who are madly in love with you whose hearts you absolutely destroy. There will be people who you love so much who love you so much back, but that time, distance, or some other painful circumstances keep you from being with. There will be people who only teach you how you don't want to be treated. There will be people who teach you what you like. There will be people who teach you how to love. There will be people who only care about power and control. There will be people who just want to get down with your rocking bod. There will be people who make you believe that there is something incredibly special inside of you because of the way they look at you. There will be people who destroy you, people who rebuild you, people who make you a better person, and people who make you question everything you've ever learned.

And to could be all of these things, none of these things, and more.

Don't let words written on bathroom stalls define the way you experience love.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I've spent most of my life feeling like I'm underwater. I have always been fulfilled by the empty noise at the bottom of a swimming pool, the way silence feels, the words it translates have always meant much more than promises people made to me with their mouths. There is fulfillment in emptiness, in waves turning over, in the way water seeps through clothing and into your pores, as though it cannot wait to be reunited with your inner secrets. There is meaning in the droplets of water that gather on the sides of a sweating glass of iced tea or the quiet showers of rain as we are falling asleep; the world longs to be drenched, to be hydrated. There is something inside of me that has always been swimming towards the center of the earth, to the farthest depths of space. I have never stopped having dreams of being a mermaid.

I've spent most of my life trying to fit into molds that were made for other people; dresses and bras and friendships and definitions and positions and normalcy. But the things that filled me were sparkling and burning and wet, salty and beautiful, lost from the sea, made from the earth, stories that were written on caves, myths that were once truths. I have always been thirsty for freedom, for a hammock hanging between trees where no one could find me, for a message in a bottle dropped into the ocean, for answers to questions that tasted less like manufactured lies and more like unwashed fruit. When I was a little girl, my Nanny took me to the library and we read all of the books written for children about mermaids. Not Disney's, but the raw, dark nymph that found her way onto abandoned ships, rocks, and seashores. There has always been something endlessly seductive to me about running away to the sea, I have always heard the siren call. It wasn't the desire to grow a tail or seduce men or sleep under the shelter of seaweed. It was the parts of me that no one understood; the parts of me that made it easy to untie my heart, the parts of me that ran away in the nighttime or hid under the bed like fearful cats, the parts of me that we had to keep pouring water on to keep alive, the parts of me that I left outside to dry, the parts of me that couldn't be touched or classified or taken away. The parts of me that I learned were magic. I knew what it felt like to be in a room full of people who looked at me like I was from a different place, because I was made of different things than them. I found my truths in words that others had written, piece by piece, I'm still finding them. I found them in songs played over and over until their words became prayers. I found them on shower floors, in letters from people who loved me, in stories of the smell of the sea, of reckless abandon.

I have always seen the exit signs, first. I have always kept one foot in the doorway. I have always clung to the part of myself that is undeniably free, irrevocably independent, perpetually running from the sun, the moon, and other ways we tell time. And it is a part; there is a woman who likes to sit at kitchen tables and hold onto hands, people, and confirmations of reality; there is a woman who does not like the way tears taste and the way water fills underwear and the way loneliness feels at night. There is a woman inside of me who was made for land, made for life, made to carry burdens, made to stay, made to stand, but she is protected by a woman who can always escape. My escape is mine to own, to write, to pour onto pages and out of myself.

There has always been a foretold element, as though someone wrote the story of me, my prophecy, my rights, my wrongs, onto my skin, like scales. And I have spent my life trying to find the words, the actions, the people, the places that make their neon glow. And it wasn't a story that someone told before, and it wasn't the story of following dreams or belonging or success. It was learning a language that hardly anyone but me understood; the language of my identity, of writing words on walls that seared through the paint. I used to think I had a sickness, a disorder, a frantic kind of anxiety that was determined to eat me from the inside out; but time and faith and love prove that my scales are here for a reason. There is something inside of me, a fish, a witch, a mermaid; something that predates everything I know, and this is how I have learned to understand the world. I wrote it, I write it, I am writing it every day, onto my skin and the skin of the earth around me. I have to keep writing until it all falls out, until I have written it all and I can run to the island that comes to me when I close my eyes and fall asleep. I have to save as many people as I can, love as many people as I can stuff inside my heart, before I can dive off the cliff and into the blue, before my tail will grow in. I have to stay, on Earth, in the here, in the now, because there are other identities written onto my skin, there is love, there are answers, there are solutions, there are secrets. I have scales to illuminate, I have neon conductors to uncover. I have to stay, I cannot run away until I have found all of the scales and nailed them to walls were they cannot be unseen.

My perpetual need to run away; my perpetual desire to be left alone, to be freed, my fear of suffocating, my love of empty boats and need for star nightlights, it is necessary, for my survival. I am strange, I have always been strange to you. I have been crazy and evil and unloved. I have been twisted and sick and cold. I have been because I once had to be. If you see, if you feel it, the pull, the need for things that cannot be bought or stolen or claimed, the unattainable property of magic, of love, of change and revolution, then you understand what it feels like inside of my soul.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

One Real Box

I think a lot about boxes. Cardboard societal conventions or things people stuff you in under their bed. I write a lot about boxes. Searing acid burns against the flesh of identity, cattle prods. But I've said before, boxes aren't real, someone made them up. There is, however, one box I believe in. There is a box that was made with no semblance of uniformity, a box that might sparkle when you hold it at just the right angle of light, a box that might be full of sugar, a box that might be full of hate. There is a box that we all have, or were at least given, maybe some of us do our best to never use it or fill it or take it out of its carefully guarded closet.

My box is pink and sage and covered in flowers and cut up magazines and glitter and misplaced clothes and jewelry and earring backs and books and half filled diaries and letters. It's somewhere, underneath a pile of blonde hair and reasons why I don't want you to locate the box. You see, if someone found my box, they might use it to store their own things inside of, which would be fine, I can share. But sometimes when someone begins to use your space as their own, all of the things that belong in their own special box begin to suffocate the things that are uniquely yours in your uniquely you box.
Your special box is your special place, to put inside of what you cherish most. That is why I have always hidden my box; who knows what someone could do if they got their hands on all of the things that mean the most to you? There are a lot of times in our lives when the best move seems like it is to shut the box, to lock it, and to only bring it back out when the sun is shining and the monsters have all been reduced to ash in its light.

I used to put bad things that didn't belong to me inside of my box, insecurities, jealousies, fears, anxieties, and scars. I thought that the good things in my box could smother these foreign contents with love, I thought that if I loved the adopted contents enough that they would change into new things, I hoped my box would overflow with love. Instead, the bad things started to eat away at the good things in my box. I felt myself becoming insecure, scared, angry, jealous, and empty. I had to clean out my box, sew it back together in the parts that had become worn, scrub off the corners that had collected mold and dust. I lined it with soft things, I filled it with new flowers, different kinds, poured water on the floor and splashed my feet in it. My box had lost things that I thought were important, but I realized my box was just so used to being strangled that it had forgotten how well it could breathe without help.
I put my box on a shelf. I still carried it with me everywhere, but it was mine. If someone else wanted to share my box with me, they'd have to be gentle and good at climbing. I didn't believe in people that knew how to properly handle my box.

Then, my box got knocked off its shelf, in a clumsy, silly way. It came toppling off the shelf and you caught it on the way down, keeping all of the contents intact. We poured candy and lots and lots and lots of coffee into my box. We laughed a lot, so we put some of that in mine and some in yours. There were nights we couldn't remember clearly but we still put them in, just in case. There were little fights and a big fight and a million blonde hairs and poems, we put them all in. We put our debates and our movies and our successes and our failures into the boxes, all of them into both. I put words that you said casually inside the walls of my box so that when I looked around, I would always see how loved I was. I put fingerprints, perfume, post it notes, lipstick all over the walls of your box, so you could see the same. We put people we loved into each other's boxes and things we hated into each other's boxes. I thought that bad things would unearth themselves and come crawling out to eat away at the happy boxes, I thought that the bottoms of the boxes would cave in from all of the wonderful things we were putting inside of them. I thought that my box would overflow as I was walking down the street and that I would carelessly miss an important piece flying away from me like a red balloon. I thought that one day you would ask for all of the things you put inside of my box back and I would have to unpack them, soaking wet with love and trust and tears. Whenever you asked for my box, it was only to put more things inside of, it was only to tip me over with the immensity of your love.

My box no longer sits on a shelf, in fact, you can never find it in just one place anymore. It is scattered all over the continental U.S., part of it is even in Brussels. I used to think that a heart is meant to be kept locked away, safe and sound, until the perfect key comes on the perfect day to set it free and simultaneously coddle it like an infant. I used to think that a heart had a cap, a maximum amount of love that could be inside of it before it burst into pieces and shattered all over a cold tile floor. But I look at my heart now, my box, and I know there is no such thing as too much love. I know now, there is no such thing as bad love, there is only what we mistake as love. I know now, that when you submit yourself to the immensity of God, of the world, of how much love there is to be found, in all of the dirty corners of the all the boxes, love comes. Not good love or bad love or real love or fake love or young love or old love or strong love or weak love, just love. It comes in with the morning light and warms you and cherishes you. Love does not consume or suffocate your box, love is what fills your box.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your box overflows with love.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

An Instruction Manual for Putting Yourself Back Together

Put this next to your bed, where your eyes reach first in morning light. Your bed, not anyone else's. If you do not have your own bed, put it in your place, where you read, where you write, where you know it's safe to hide. If you don't know where your place is, find it.

Pray. Constantly.
You will find that you don't know where you are going.
Ask God. Trust God. Be patient, believe that the path will
Be illuminated. Believe that you will be illuminated in God's love.

Cry. In the morning, in the afternoon, on Saturday nights when it will ruin your makeup,
Tears are for washing, for protecting,
Stuffed tears turn to poison, to hate, pulsing through the sea of you.
Cry when you are happy, cry when you are broken, cry when you need to,
and because someone weak once told you it made you weak.

Begin to belong to you, and only you.
Did you ever belong to just yourself?
Be the person who you can count on, to laugh with,
to endure with, to wipe the eyeliner from beneath your eyes.
Be the person to hug your hips, to read books to, to lay in the grass with.
You do not have to fill your spaces with someone else.
If you expect someone else to fill you, there will never be enough love.
Let light flood the empty parts of you. Heal with sunshine, not fingerprints.

Exist, and let your existence speak for itself.
Do not make yourself a smoker or a prude or a body cavity to fill.
Do not make yourself into anything other than the person you are.
There is an identity, there was always an identity, you have never ceased to exist.
You have never disappeared, despite your many attempts.
Eat. As much or as little as you want. Do not vanish.
Breathe, deep, shaky, powerful gulps of air. Do not suffocate.

Wander into the places of yourself you've been afraid to touch,
You may find bruises, you may find scars,
Know yourself, map yourself.
One day, someone will want to understand your geography,
Know how to teach them.
Wander too far away from home, leave home, build new homes.
When one burns down, you will always have another one to learn
to trust warmth inside of.

Set down your burdens.
You carried their emotions inside your heart for far too long.
You are not a backpack, or a hamper, or a trunk for all of
their old demons to sit and rot inside of.
You are not luggage, you are a person.

Love will come to you in forms that you don't recognize.
People will love you who don't need saved.
People will love you for your face in the morning,
and not when they tear down your strength.
People will love you for the way your voice sounds when reading,
and not when telling them what they want to hear.
People will love you because of the creation you are,
and not a wax figurine they tried to turn you into.

Learn to be fresh. To begin each day without yesterday's mistakes.
Learn to sit in the rocking chair
And hold their flaws gently, cradling them,
As they learn to trust your balance beam heart.
Learn to smile when plans fall through, when the food gets cold,
When the rain drenches us on our walk home.

Say, "I love you," only when you want to say it.
Say no, maybe, and yes. But not just Yes.
And not just No.
Carry inside of you the story of a person who is a tapestry,
A person made to help flowers grow,
A person made to give the world something no one else could.
A person made in God's divine light.

Let the hate steep with the tea.
Let your fear of remembering be forgotten.
Let your toes curl up in delight.
Let happiness sit upon your windowsill like a sleeping cat
so that everyone who passes will smile knowing:
You are whole.
You have always been whole.
You will always be whole.