Blessed, or I’m going to be okay because it’s almost spring

Walking around on campus I have noticed that the school has been planting calla lilies and daffodils and all the other trees have burst into bloom. People are praying for spring but instead the sky has given us rain, rain, and more rain. Inside of warm buildings surrounded by warm bodies I’ve been watching the rippling puddles from tall windows, and at night in warm blankets I’ve been listening to the content sound of the gutter’s gurgling of the day’s showers.

I see there’s a fire bell above the women’s restroom where the twigs of a bird’s nest stick out in all directions proclaiming, “This is our home!” It’s strange to know these creatures are unaware of their house’s purpose and that in the event of an emergency, they’ll be the first to know when their earth shakes and screams but they’ll also be the first to flee the scene. But we have been safe thus far, and as long as we’re safe they’re safe. 

The school’s swimming pool is surrounded by a high, narrowly slotted fence through which the sun can slip through only as a series of slivers. When I walk down the sidewalk along the border it becomes a celestial flashing camera telling me, “This is your life, this is your life, this is your life.” I feel I have a lot of figurative flashing cameras reflecting my light back to me. They are reminding me that I’m not obligated to whatever’s happened in the past or what my future holds, especially considering my return to social media and especially considering all the people I’ve found are still rooting for me. 

Still, I wear combat boots for as long as I can until the sun is warm enough to coax my toes out from under the black laces and convinces me I don’t have to be at war with the world anymore. I wear hoodies and scarves for as long as I can until the wind I felt has always been pushing me away changes, and becomes the breeze that pulls me into spring.

The latest taste of heat I’ve felt was when I burned my knuckle on the popper at work a few weekends ago. The crinkled, fish-shaped scar has finally started to peel away to reveal delicate pink skin that reminds that the body fights for us to begin anew.

And yet last weekend I hurt myself again and my skin has opened up again in anger, filling in the spaces I tried too hard to create to distance myself from pressures threatening my head. The healing is ugly, and the scar looks like a set of lop-sided lungs, but self-forgiveness sweetens the process.

My emotions build upon themselves until I become angry about being angry, sad about being sad, ashamed for being ashamed, guilty for feeling guilty. Everything is amplified, magnified, increased exponentially until I catch myself wishing I didn’t have to feel at all. At the same time I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I think I’m getting better. I feel better in this moment, and I can’t express how happy I am to be happy.

My brother reminds me that I am in a different space now, and that the last phase of my life has long been shed, and that it’s time to create a new space for myself. 

My thoughts buzz along telephone wires and my patience is the red of traffic lights when my uncle’s voice tells me to”BRAKE. BRAKE” as he holds the sides of the car even though I know I am far from danger.

As the seasons stutter from one into the next, strangers all around me raise their voices to politely bless me. I say thank you, always surprised at my newfound state of blessedness, and walk along.

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First love

1. I found myself in a closet with my first love when we were both 10 or so. It was a rigged game of 7 minutes in heaven and our time was still ticking. I remember feeling very cramped between the vacuum cleaner and his body. He asked, “Do you really want to do this?” I shook my head and he mumbled, “Me neither.” So we just stood close enough that I could feel his goose bumps touch my own.

I was in love with my best friend. My biggest scar on my face resulted from proving to him I could be like one of the boys. We vandalized the neighborhood together, constructed made-up games together, philosophized in the way that kids do about anything from school to sex together. Loving him was a rush in many ways, but it was also masked and stifled from our perpetual infantile feigned dislike of each other. Even after we kissed “just for fun” behind a bush outside my childhood home I was still “just like a brother” to him, but I knew a brother wouldn’t touch my face like that.

We couldn’t possibly get past a platonic relationship because we knew too much about each other, and were not at all what we pictured in a potential romantic partner. We missed it. We missed each other. The last thing he said to me, when I returned to pick up something I’d left at his house a few months after I abruptly moved: “I didn’t even miss you” and I tried to believe the same.

2. My second love grew out of admiration and a hint of jealousy of his talents.

I was a parched valley and somehow he knew exactly how to fill up all the jagged cracks and spaces. I fell hard for his silver prose that dripped out his fingertips and laced our nightly chats. Our fondness for one another went back and forth for an extended amount of time, and my infatuation swelled with every split moment of eye contact, chat notification, flash of wit. He knew I had a penchant for stories and he happened to have a knack for telling them, so I thought for sure this was an indicator that this was meant to be. Loving him felt like blooming over and over and over again.

It was a picture-perfect courtship. He knew all the right things to say. He told everyone I was beautiful every chance he had to, whether or not I was listening. I was infatuated, maybe even obsessed with him, but I was also very well infatuated with the concept of being in love. It was partly selfish too, because I loved the kind of light, airy person I was when I was glowing from being in love. I did genuinely love him for his genuineness and his soft-heartedness, though I guess I we did not know or understand each other as well as we thought we did until perhaps the very end.

“I love yous” turned quickly into “I miss yous” and it was soon evident enough that this could not have a place in reality given the outside circumstances. It needed to be cut off, too, because perhaps our relationship didn’t have roots deep enough for us to withstand everything that threatened us.

One of the last things he’s said to me, when miles and lifestyles away we check up on each other: “You realize how people change and thus can better understand them.”

3. I ran into my third love in the library, and when that happened I genuinely felt like time had stopped, that something important was happening.

I fell in love with a wonderful collection of brillances and imperfections. It began this time out of a strange curiosity which became a fascination and attraction I couldn’t bring myself to pull away from. I fell in love with all the little habits, all the awe-inspiring pieces I gleaned about him from every interaction. It was affection, then connection. Loving him feels electric and stimulating, something that continually feeds itself.  At some point we had a mutual understanding that we were both committed to taking this relationship seriously and have overcome so many obstacles to prove it. Our faults and shortcomings seem to mesh neatly with each other as do our respective assets. We support and encourage each other in big decisions and in our passions. We talk about our future together. We carry each other through our weakest moments and bask in each other’s success.

We take the time to work through our inevitable conflicts, however messy and aggravating.  I know it is love because he accepts the nitty gritty details of my past. He is not afraid of my demons nor of the culture I come from that does not welcome him. It’s love because all my shortcomings to him are opportunities for growth. When I walked away and told him to leave to protect him from all my sharp edges, he came running after me to tell me he wanted all of me. Somehow where I see smudges and insecurities and crooked lines, he sees something close to beautiful. He has the patience of mountains and the gentle presence of rain clouds coaxing out the buried spring inside me.

Making me happy genuinely makes him happy. Loving him doesn’t make me feel at his mercy or totally dependent on his affection for my livelihood. Instead, we thrive on each other’s joy but also make each other feel entirely secure. I fell in love with someone who makes me feel more me. I don’t even quite feel like I fall in love with him more and more, but rather rise in it.

It’s everything I could ever want, and everything I didn’t know I needed.

The last thing he said to me: “See you soon.”

A year in review

I have been in a strange sense of limbo these past few months as I’ve been wrapping my mind around the idea that a new year is finally upon us. It took lunar new year, when I was in a much more stable and optimistic state than I was on the first day of the solar new year, to understand what I really want out of 2014.

Without a doubt, 2013 was one of the absolute craziest, event-filled, heart-wrenching, challenging, yet rewarding years I’ve ever had in my 19 years of living.

From January through February I felt unreal, detached, and mostly desperate for attention.  I alienated my friends and never wanted to be home, yet I was hungry for words of affirmation. I was scared and angry at everything. Numbness was the closest feeling I could get to happiness and I closed myself off to love. I spent this time wallowing in self-pity.

Spring brought a growing sense of self-reliance for emotional stability as I devoted myself to writing and schoolwork.  I wrote, “I am learning to be less inhibited” even though the thought of relating to others still terrified me a little.

By April I was much better at moving along with the unpredictability of my life and soaking in life’s strange moments. This was good preparation for the events that ensued, beginning with my decision to leave home and place myself at the mercy of my friends’ loyalty and compassion. I missed my brother immensely. My grades suffered. Still, I ogled at my newfound independence and the idea that no one was watching over me. I worked for my own livelihood now. I had my own money and time to spend. If I wanted something within my reach I could have it. If I wanted to be someplace with someone I could go out and do it. This was a marvel in itself. I couldn’t afford to overthink about the future, because the present was so much more enticing for once.

In June it seemed I was so effusively giddy about the close of the semester, summer, and life.  I was content with my living situation, my financial situation, and all of my relationships. I was constantly out doing things with people, relishing this foreign freedom. Consequently I did not have very much alone time that I was so accustomed to having to recharge and reflect. I wrote, “My mind is buzzing with activity. It’s all dizzying to think about.” All of this continued to swell into July, in which I was much too carried away with life to sit down for a single second. Summer was when I decided that I could be happy anywhere.

Fall was a clumsy return to school and further responsibilities. I was frustrated with my lack of productivity and my inability to make simple decisions for myself. I was easily overwhelmed and my priorities were jumbled. Worst yet, I had a sinking feeling I didn’t belong at the home I was in or with the people in it. I started again with the self-doubting and the thoughts of heavy guilt for my presence. By December I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t reading, and my heart wasn’t in school or work or people. I moved again.

Coming back full circle this past January I was forced to reevaluate the state I was in and how far I’ve come emotionally and mentally. I realized that a lot of the dark feelings I was experiencing brought to light many things I’d been suppressing since I’d moved out of my aunt’s. Winter was when I decided that I could also be sad anywhere.

These feelings weren’t hiding in a physical place like I’d believed for so much of my life. It took some courage to confront myself and decide that this mindset was an excuse for refusal to grow.

So, 2013 was rife with people from all sides telling me who I was, who I was supposed to be. People kept telling me what the right thing to do was, affirming or rejecting the way I was choosing to live my life. There was too much emotional chaos. There was too much unpredictability and rash judgment. It was a year of extremes, and I want to have order again.

At the same time, 2013 was a year for me filled with a lot of boldness, a lot of risk-taking, and a lot of really important decision-making in how I wanted to live my life.

In 2013 I never felt at home any place. I felt secure, but not safe. Cared for, but not loved. Appreciated, but not needed. Compatible ,but not belonging. Anyplace I was, I wanted to be somewhere else.

This year I want to stop looking for homes in other places or people. I want self-acceptance. I want firm self-reliance. I want my love and compassion for others to be free-flowing and uninhibited.

I want to finally let go of speculation of the past and head into conflict with an eye for opportunity and improvement. After a year of busy thoughts and detaching as was instinctive to me, I want to be fully present with people. I want to actively engage. I want to believe I am worthy of belonging and connection, and therefore be able to accept love that comes my way. I want to let myself in so I can let everyone else in.

The realization that I am not bound to my history or an outdated idea of my former self is liberating, just as the realization that I am really in complete control of the life I want to build for myself is so empowering. 2013 for me was a year of experimentation in lifestyle choices and relationship choices. I want 2014 to be an implementation of rigorous self-improvement,  trusting that home is something I carry with me so I am free to move forward.