Where have you been?

growing

I am the type of person who hates explaining herself. I would much rather hide under the covers, look away, recede.

It was a muted summer, with a room with a view. It was getting drunk with friends for the very first time. It was relocating and standing up for myself. It was my head in his hands, listening to him tell me to be safe. Too bad I’m not so good at that.

People like my brother are troublemakers. People like me are trouble-seekers. Once I moved away from family for the final time I locked myself in crisis mode and now I can’t seem to get out. I pick fights and I push buttons. I kick up dirt and slam my palms against chain-link fences. When all you’ve ever known is the transience of stability, it’s hard to get comfortable.

It was a wringing of the hands and rapid thoughts, heart beating so fast at the danger I couldn’t see. I spent days on end blankly refreshing the browser again and again hoping I’d find connection. I sat very, very still in a city of commuters. Every morning I woke up to the sound of children playing and praying next door. Every night I begged for sleep so I wouldn’t be tempted to literally tear my skin off. I walked barefoot around the block asking the homeless where the hell I could buy some chocolate milk at 1am, glints from stray cats’ eyes and dusty neon signs lighting my way around the city. Keys failed. Pills failed. Dismissive comments from my therapist failed. Sex, anger, and intoxication were the only things that made me feel alive.

When I started to try to separate myself from the things that were making me feel detached and unreal, I started to become completely unhinged. I started to feel everything that I had numbed before. There was jealousy and loneliness and so much anger.

However, there was also effusive love and friendship and intimacy and everything else I had almost forgotten. There were soft amber lights and laughter. There were arms wrapped each other’s shoulders as we stumbled down the streets in a joyous haze. For the first time in months, everything I wanted to say started to pour out and, instead of repelling others, it drew my most treasured friends closer. I became an open wound: stinging, putrid, raw, exposed.

I am a walking healing scar. I have never felt ready, and I don’t know if I ever will. I can’t emphasize how scared I’ve been of change and of my ability to function. For a brief moment each day I come back to the apartment, however, I smell cooling pastries on the table and sunlight peeking through the blinds. I go into the room and smell skin on blankets and turn on the comforting fairy light draped over our bed and I remember that this home’s been worth it, he’s worth it, and I’m certainly worth everything that’s happened.

Still Knocking

This is a crane fly.

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There have been so many crane flies in the house. I hear them knocking into the walls relentlessly through the night with their long, ugly, gangly legs. Everyone seems to agree that they look like monstrous versions of mosquitos except harmless. Somehow their sheer size and unwanted gaze is enough to make me writhe. When they fly they fly erratically and grossly, with their clumsy legs dragging behind them as if their entire body structure is nature’s mistake. They whirl around my exposed lamp and bump and smack right back into the walls. I’ve been trying to figure out if, like moths, they are looking for the moon.

Crane flies keep spinning against the ceiling now. They’re like spiders that can fly, fear and confusion on wings. I hate this sound.

There are four or five shriveled crane fly corpses on the windowsill in the kitchen, their legs tucked in like fingers into a fist, artifacts of a quest for freedom. Last night one of them managed to perch awkwardly on the side of the structure right underneath the naked bulb of my lamp and I thought, “What are you going to do now?” I don’t think it knew either, and it flew away someplace else of its own accord.

Once a crane fly suddenly crashed into the glowing screen of my laptop, looking for a way out of the darkness.

It’s hot. The crane flies are almost worse than my self-doubting. I feel itchy in my own skin. I want to peel it all off so my exposed flesh throbs and glistens and takes in everyone else’s light. Every small, disgusting thunk of the ugly crane flies is the same answer to uncomfortable questions.

Did I change my major before I even knew what I was getting into? Yes.

Did my lips say “yes” when everything else said “no”? Yes.

Did I fake an emotion again? Yes.

Did I blow exorbitant amounts of money on temporary hits of happiness? Yes.

Did I spend another 45 minutes stewing in envy for the features I’ll never have? Yes.

Am I longing for human connection? Am I tired of being invisible? Yes.

Did I lie about the progress I was making? Yes, yes, and yes.

Is this a self-whipping of sorts? Yes.

Crane flies are knocking against the walls again, so I opened my window to let the hum of my neighbor’s AC overtake the sounds of confused legs against hardness over and over and over again.

Things are jumbled up and backwards. I spend my waking hours thinking about how nice it’d be to return to sleep. I experience anger much more readily than I ever have. I love my aunt now more than ever, and I resent my mom. My brother gives me better, much more succinct advice than I have to offer these days. I’m without a plan. 

My academic adviser told me, you can’t dive into everything all at once.

I can’t lean against the headboard of my bed without sliding the mattress along over and ending up on my back. I’m already sick of this city, where it stinks and where months ago a teenager stood on the edge of the overpass nearby–that was the highest point he knew–with sirens all around him trying to convince him to live.

All my life I’ve held on to that tantalizing thought, “it will get better” and “there’s something good waiting behind all this” and it’s happening again. As soon as I make a decision to withdraw from a situation I don’t agree with, I’m confronted with a quiet thought that says “Isn’t this what you wanted?” “No” “Then what do you want?”

I don’t know, but it’s not this.

I’m not as daring or reckless or brave as people seem to think I am. I’m also still knocking around hoping for a different answer. No one seems to know what I mean when I say I want to go home, or when I say I am homesick. 

I can’t sleep. I regularly stay up past 2 so I can guarantee I will knock out as soon as I close my eyes, because otherwise I will rearrange limbs and what-ifs a hundred times before I lose consciousness. That’s how I know it’s summer.

 

 

2

My wordpress turned two this week, incredibly.

It’s been a very rich year, albeit inconsistent in terms of my writing and posting. I wrote only 12 posts between today and my last anniversary post.

However, in light of the very dramatic events of 2013 and my transition period into 2014, I acknowledge how emotionally packed some of my posts were. I want to say that I have been growing as a writer, but to be honest I can’t tell. I am often told that the more I tap into the intense emotions I experience (“You sound so…angry! I love it!” is a comment on my writing I will never forget from a former friend), the better the results. And so I have been trying to do just that, trying to capture feelings of guilt, the rush of adrenaline in the midst of disorder, confusion, self-love, and hope.

This time around it seemed like I was doing less observing and elucidating on some flash of realization I had while walking to class, but rather being completely immersed in the events that were happening around me and reflecting every so often in my progress of rebuilding my life. With life being much harsher to deal with upon leaving the nest (toxic as it was), more unpredictable, and being forced to think critically I think my ideas are becoming more concrete and less abstract, more genuine and less melodramatic, and generally more focused.

That’s a really long way of saying I’ve been somewhat lax about exercising my writing ability if I can even call it that at this point. It’s another way of saying I’ve been too caught up in the whirlwind of all the terrifying and painful and exciting things that have been happening to read, to broaden my intellectual scope, or to pause and have my quiet time. Alone time has been something I have deprived myself of most notably this past summer and fall because, I think, I was so frightened of being alone when I was living someplace other than what used to be home. I wrote those 12 posts in 4 different houses and as kind and welcoming and accommodating my benefactors were I never felt I belonged and I felt unsure about myself all around.

I’m resolving to do better and be attentive to my streams of thinking. I feel like I am coming closer and closer to a feeling of security balanced out with my drive to push for self-improvement in multiple areas. With this comes more confidence in my grasp of the complexities of my personal growth and all the forces that influence it.

Four of my personal favorite posts of this March 2013-March 2014 period in terms of how emotionally invested I am in them, as opposed to general objective quality, are the following:

I cannot stress enough how much every comment on my posts, private or otherwise, means the world to me. This blog is a means of personal expression but it also very much a means of connecting with others. I have reconnected with a lovely handful of old high school friends because something I wrote rang true to them as well, and I have forged new connections with people I would have never thought I could relate to because something I wrote moved them in some way. These are the kinds of things I live for, and it’s a major part of why I love doing it.

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.

Because home is where the heart is and the orphans are heartless

Unfortunately I have not been necessarily in the best state of mind to compose a cohesive post this week. I do, however, want to share one of many Margaret Atwood’s prose pieces that really stuck with me. This one in particular resonates profoundly in light of recent events. Do read. This is from her collection of essays entitled The Tent.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

I ran, or “I am so, so sorry”

My primary concern was my belongings. Not people, not closure, not consequences, but my worldly possessions. I am, and I am not, ashamed to admit it. Stacks of books, knick-knacks, overstuffed folders of papers, everything I collected, earrings and pendants, clothes most of all. I’m a materialistic girl. If I could have, I would have taken everything. Instead all my decisions were mostly practical. The thing with materialism is that what you own becomes what you perceive as what you are, so I chose the things that reminded me I was still me.

The packet of seeds was in the farthest end of my junk drawer. I’d been waiting for this. I chose a bear-shaped flower pot and went out to the backyard to sample unoccupied soil to mix in. Since it was too dry, I found some damper dirt that was reminiscent of the mud pie creations of my childhood. Then for the moment I’d been most excited about. I tore open the packet carefully to reveal flat seeds, like cat’s eyes with dark slender ovals in the center, the rest the color of roasted peaches. I shook out less than ten of these into my palm and deposited them into the pot, brushing them deeper into the dirt with my fingertips. 

There are problems so deeply rooted that if you try to truly dig them out, you end up burying yourself alive. My fault, your fault, a troubled childhood, an unstable temperament, the wrong words at the wrong time, the right words at the wrong time, patterns, resentments, something lacking. Pointing accusatory fingers and grabbing her wrists too damn tightly, not realizing how small they were, when we should have held each other’s shaking hands. Desensitized, numb, treacherously apathetic. The opposite of love is indifference. Hate is frustrated love. I ask myself, why was I so afraid to give? To trust?

I set the pot on the windowsill in my room where the bear’s bottom stuck out precariously over the edge, but still in a position where it could balance properly so long as no one disturbed it. I peered at the soil as I watered the seeds with a white plastic cup. I saw some ants and unassuming tiny brown insects scuttling around. I assumed this was normal, although in hindsight I should have consulted my green-thumbed brother who’d nurtured an apple seed until it surpassed me in height. The packet said germination would begin in 15-20 days, so I watched and waited. 

What am I leaving behind? I asked myself this over and over. This has happened before too many times. It had to end. But I couldn’t help thinking of my biological father walking out before I was born and my mother walking out without saying goodbye. Even I didn’t give a proper goodbye except for a pathetic line on a sticky note in blue pen. I had no time to deliberate very long and I didn’t want to miss my chance. As I ran I wondered, am I doing the right thing? I can’t ever fucking tell. I don’t have time for regret, but I do think of my hurting brother who closed the door behind me with the most heart-breaking expression on his face. Now I was leaving.

I thought it’d be easy and quick because I was very impatient to see something grow. I checked on the flower pot every day, feeling much like EVE who, too, scanned the desolate Earth for even the smallest hint of sweet green life. Nothing. 

I am aware I have chosen a path where I can’t ever turn back. I am so fucking terrified underneath my bravado because I don’t know where or how I’m going to properly look after myself. I am always in survival mode, but that does not in the least mean I’m not clumsy in that area. I am fucking clueless and I can hear it in my friends’ concerned voices: “How are we supposed to help you if you can’t even help yourself? What exactly is wrong? What exactly do you need? What is going on? What are you going to do?” I can’t even pretend I’m looking forward to new beginnings. I’m moving between reckless abandon and hyper-caution. I am fucking terrified and I don’t know where home is, but that is the only place I want to be. 

It has been 2 1/2 weeks since planting the seeds and there is no sign of germination. The packet said it was a versatile plant, one that was sure to flourish in both dry and moist conditions. This had given me substantial confidence in my plant-growing abilities. But when I look at the flower pot and brush my fingers across the surface, I eventually uncover the seeds that are as lifeless and dormant as the day I first saw them. I later get reprimanded for keeping the pot on the windowsill where it could potentially cause a fine mess. It was stupid of me, really, to think I could grow a wildflower indoors. 

One year, or what writing means to me

Last Tuesday was my blog’s birthday. About a year ago, I started this WordPress primarily out of peer pressure. More specifically, I was bandwagon-ing on the blogging trend because my very talented friends had started blogs of their own. I initially expected some sort of friendly competition between us, but the idea of blog wars was tossed out promptly because our individual styles and processes were so very different.

I found that I was mostly a reflective writer, and my posts resembled transcripts of rickety trains of thought. I write in streams of consciousness, never quite sure where they will lead me.

I used this WordPress blog to make sense of the serious, important changes that were happening in my life. 90% of my posts originated from me thinking on paper and transcribing my thought process with minimal editing; the other 10% resulted from free writing in front of the glowing screen to sort out what I thought from what I felt, and finding where the two overlapped.

Incredibly, I have published 34 posts. My personal favorites/ the ones that mean a lot to me include the following:

People have been very supportive, giving me advice on how often I should update, commenting on my posts, pointing out the numerous typos, asking for clarification, suggesting possible future topics to write about. From time to time people would come up to me and say, “I read your blog” and nothing else, as if they were simply giving me a heads-up that they were aware of what I’ve been dwelling on, what’s happening in my life. The nicest people told me I inspired them to write and spend more time self-reflecting, or gave me genuine constructive criticism or content.

I say this often and I’ll say it again: I don’t consider myself a writer, or even a blogger. I don’t offer any fresh insight or critique on current events. I don’t have fiery opinions on controversial topics. I am not funny. I am not an artist or a poet. I do not claim to have found answers to universal questions. I am not really a storyteller, unless telling my own story in all my vanity counts. I don’t consider myself capable of riveting my audience with sheer ingenuity.

But then, who is my audience anyway? I would be lying if I claimed I was writing only for myself, but I’m not exactly parading my URL to the world and labeling myself at all a “blogger.” I can’t say I’m writing for my peers because since deactivating my Facebook account, only a small handful have cared to seek out what I’ve posted, because the rest of my friends wouldn’t know where to look if the link’s not dangling in their newsfeed.

No, I figure I’m in an empty room talking to the wall. I fantasize that people walking around on the other side can discern my muffled words and may or may not be curious to know what’s going on. And, if I’m lucky, someone will gently open the door to peek in, and ask what all the fuss is about.

A while ago when I was feeling particularly insecure , I had hastily posted this excerpt and just as promptly took it down.

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Generally I have the same mindset. The difference is that I think I care a lot less. The blog is a manifestation of an ongoing personal project to understand myself. And I think that is what writing has been to me all along.