I feel itchy in my own skin

What it Feels Like #2

What it Feels Like #2

I like to be as transparent as possible when I’m on social media and have since let go of anything that may inhibit me from self-promoting my blog or asking candidly for help.

It never ceases to amaze me just how responsive people have been to my need and how encouraging people have been. I don’t consider myself a very good friend when physical distance is involved. In fact I find long-distance friendships very difficult to maintain, with few exceptions, if there’s little to no promise of meeting up in person in the near future. Still, people I have not seen since high school or literally in over 5 years are always the first ones to lend a supporting hand. I’m so grateful. It inspires me, really, to spread that amount of sheer kindness around.

My mother taught me to depend on kindness. My aunt taught me to be wary of kindness. While I understand now that they used kindness as a crutch or a red flag as a means of survival, I’ve found that exuding kindness is necessary for my own.

I’ve always strived to be self-reliant and have been infamously stubborn about demonstrating that ability to look after myself. At the same time I’ve also always held on to the idea that people are inherently good, and only relatively recently recognized that they will typically be responsive when asked for help. So far this ideology has taken me much farther than I could ever hoped.

Every so often I still feel selfish. Sometimes I’ll spend days on end fixating on my physical flaws and punishing my body until I realize that my worst flaws are most likely the ones I can’t see. Then I’ll work myself into a frenzy mass-messaging friends I haven’t heard from in months or years or lavish them with praise and encouragement I somehow cannot bring to give myself. It’s a strange tension that I’m working to even out.

When I still lived with my aunt sometimes I would be so engrossed with something, whether an assignment or a book, that I would work well past sundown. My room already was not well lit and it wouldn’t be until I heard her presence in the room and she tugged the pull chain of my nightstand lamp that I would realize it was nearly pitch-dark in the room.

I have so many people gently illuminating the space around me when I’m too preoccupied with busy nothings to know how long I’ve been sitting in the dark.

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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.

12 Hours of Daylight

I. I had never seen the streets so empty or heard the city so quiet. Exhausted from all the talking, I try to make myself as comfortable as possible in a sitting position in order to sleep. I am in this strange, suspended, resting-but-still-conscious state with my head hanging to one side when someone whispers, “Look!” I complain and cover my head with the blanket. Someone tears it off and, before I can get grumpy, I see a glint of the morning light on the horizon. The night pulls up and away like a curtain and no one says anything for a long time.

II. The power was cut from our apartment. Too many months late on the rent. I awaken to sunlight bearing down heavy and bright in our room. I panic. I can’t be late for school. Mom motions for me to get back to bed. Instead, I anxiously knock on Uncle’s bedroom door. He sleepily answers and soon enough we’re in his decrepit pickup truck. I hardly even know this man, and he’s not even my uncle. It it only later I understand that the string of strangers who came to live with us were renters. When we arrive I find an empty campus. I am an hour early, and I am embarrassed. My mom says to me when I come home later that day, “Don’t ever do that again.”

III. The entire house is bare. We are sleeping on the floor of what used to be the master bedroom. Or, more accurately, we are trying to. Technically we were supposed to have moved out a week prior so the construction workers could prepare for demolition. None of us can sleep. We can’t tell it it’s because the floor is so hard, the house is so cold, or we are otherwise uncomfortable with the imminent change about to happen. The three of us toss and turn like spinning cylinders of a conveyor belt. Before we know it, birds are chirping incessantly outside the window. We can hear the clunking of a truck carrying various metal tools coming around the corner. It is time for us to leave.

IV. The clouds are spread thin and I can see the sun in its purest form without having to shield myself from its rays. It is a perfect pale disk. I don’t know when the veil of clouds will run out, but I cannot look away.

V. It is summer and I am miserable. I am sitting on the front porch holding myself where stronger arms used to hold me. Neighbors chatter about pasta recipes and power walk down the sidewalks as children scurry to piano practice or soccer camp, and there is a lawnmower buzzing in the distance. The world moves on and I sit very still, head ducked down because everything is so damn bright.

VI. I wipe sweat from my brow as I jump out of the car. He is there out on the driveway. He says, “I didn’t even miss you,” although we both know that’s a lie. I walk past to get what I need from inside his house. I see that heat waves are rising from the street, and decide not to linger longer than I have to. I do not look back or say goodbye.

VII. We lift our hands, we photosynthesize. We photosynthesize not knowing whether it is even going to be our season to grow.

VIII. We are very young. Others go to tease the newest lovebirds among us. As I hear someone say, “Hold her hand!” I find a nice spot to lay on the grass and face the sky. I get a bad sunburn on my nose the next day.

IX. It is a time when I have forgotten my keys to the house. I sit on the front porch feeling sorry for myself. The sky is patchy with clouds and it alternates between excruciating heat and bitter cold whenever a cloud happens to pass over the sun. I watch as my neighborhood intermittently descends into darkness and is strangely illuminated. I pray for longer periods of clear skies. I curse the darkness.

X. It is summer and I am happy. I spend an entire day in the hammock in the back, cradled in warmth and a good measure of creative energy. I feel loved.

XI. It is much hotter inside the car than outside. I am about to burst with what I want to say to the driver, but I am nervous. Instead, I say nothing and flip down the front mirror. I do this partly for shade, partly as a distraction. He looks at me as I look at myself.

XII. We are walking to the parking lot when she stops and says, “Okay, I know this is so lame, but isn’t that sunset just gorgeous?” We look up at the sky, all sherbet  colors and swirls, then say in unison, “That’s not lame at all.” We three savor the moment, and soon it’s time to go.