To Go On, To Name What I Remember (A Kind of Litany)

I don't know what I'm here for yet

I mean here

in this particular season

I keep asking and also I'm really good at explaining 

until what is said doesn't matter anymore

 

There is a constant cauldron 

a stock of my life 

bones and marrow and all the scraps

the skin of many cut onions the skin 

of my finger scooped up with it

whole bulbs of garlic from the garden in Chesapeake

vegetables I never know what to do with

roots like rutabagas and turnips

the feet of the chickens we gave away before New Mexico

scraps and waste and rind

the trout bones we caught at the lake under Manzano mountain 

with your infuriatingly idiotic father

who also made me laugh and was mostly kind

some sage and herbs from the land that is not and never was my land

an edible flower 

yellow sticky brush weed that clears the lungs

the real doctors from the earth your mom and aunt swore by

Grindella arizonica

the plants and beasts that haunt me everywhere I turn here in Colorado

 

All of this a stew a thick broth beneath my skin

 

And I keep asking

what is this season here to teach me

 

Surely I don't know yet

because you are here too

and yes

there is more than one you here

 

Do we ever know why we are here

until here is behind us

 

So I will name what I remember

all the slick and sweat of it

the Miami of it and the Moab

the cold dark laminate floor

I walked across freezing before dawn last winter

stumbled with my coffee to my blue blue office

to grade papers before the long

but goddamn breathtaking commute to Santa Fe

mountain ranges and plains and sky all around me

Manzanos

Sandias

Sangre de Cristos

the bottom of the Rockies

I followed all the way here

 

What else do I remember 

the little succulent by the window

the rain that poured in our first week there

after I left the window open

because all I want are windows

and open

The rain bubbled the new floor

thousands of dollars ruined

but what do I care now I’m not there

I’m here

and here is a bed I’ve found myself in

let myself be naked in again

where I made you come and come

opened you like a book like a canyon

your green eyes

your green eyes

your green eyes

a window to a place you never let me touch

 

And Pablo on Table Mountain

the wind whipping us making red skin of us

for a moment I forgot if I was here

or in the backyard in New Mexico

and when I drove down dirt roads in New Mexico

on a day when the mountains were blue

I couldn’t tell if I was there

or in Virginia where the mountains are always blue

 

Speaking of blue and mountains and Virginia

I laid for almost 9 hours on my stomach 

to put blue and mountains and Virginia on my body

gripped the tattoo artist’s chair until my chest was sore for days

breathed counted my breath let myself feel tried to distract myself from feeling

and at one point you were there but I was shaking

I asked my artist to marry me

all along I meant it for you

and you were mad in the bathroom as I tried to walk

all the adrenaline from hours of paid-for pain

a vibration down to the marrow of me

my body not even a metaphor

for this fucking year of feeling like needles were taking me down

little sharp stabs of pain and heartbreak and also me conquering something

asking for it

all along I’ve been asking for it

 

Now what

what am I going to do with this me I’ve been asking for

 

Here I am alone again

naked body facing the mirror

I am smaller than ever and I love it

and I know this is another attachment

another lesson in watching this body morph

scream

shake

spin

walk

especially since I eat again and sleep

and the sadness doesn’t make me throw up bile

or dry-heave like it has over and over

 

My hip flexors tell me my body is still my mother’s

I can feel the overstretch of her

the tissue and ligaments needing strength

not stretch

Still

when everything gets the best of me

and I’ve walked and taken photos of the trees and light and the dog and myself

over and over self-portraits of my blue eyes wanting

this forever yearning all over my face in so many ways

one day pissed

the next high on bliss and I am so sure

and the next so clearly unsure of anything at all

Still

I try to hold myself in space

feel my core

hold a plank a clean line from my crown to my toes

even though I know I am anything but a clean line

so instead I do what I do best

I collapse onto the floor proud because I chose this

but of course I’m avoiding holding still holding tight

making muscle out of too many seasons of softness

my pelvis tilts my chest pours forward

over straddled legs

my groin and thighs and hamstrings happy in this depth

go deeper they say

so I do

 

I remember New Years Eve

the way you looked at me

annoyed with my videos and kisses and joy

You wanted to cook for her

talk to her about dogs

so when I got bored I went to bed

and listened to the two of you talk in the living room

until the sun came up like we did when we met on your red red porch

 

I remember the beach in Daytona

walking into the ocean for the first time since I moved west

feeling your eyes on me knowing we were unsure

we moved too fast we had so much to get to know

Earlier at dawn we rolled over in the white light

in the white hotel sheets on the ninth floor

and we fucked like fucking could also be making love

and it was our eyes

fuck our eyes and hands

Later as we laid on our bellies on our towels

and held each other’s gaze

five minutes at least right

it felt like eternity but easy and yes

this season of my life wants god

and when I called to you called your name

your name your name

and you said

Tara

Tara

Tara

there she was in the relaxed heat joy climax of us looking

I thought yes this is the kind of seeing

with breath I want beside me

 

And the arches

and Goblin Valley

the red dirt of it

the heat and sun bearing down

how hard I bear down

I’m bearing down now

 

And when I was sick on the leather couch for two weeks

sweating the eight years of us onto everything I thought we owned

and you texted her beside me for hours as I came in and out

of fever in and out of bed

I should have seen the way you looked at me then

You looked at me like it was over and it was

we were so over

it was only a few weeks later

when you looked at me again

terrified this time and tried to say

my need for art was keeping me from love

but I knew better

though I did believe you then

and still think you may be right I have to choose one or the other

I asked if it was her

you said I can see it going that way

and I almost laughed at your ridiculous grasp on words

 

The goats shook by the fence

the ice-covered snow and the wind

 

There’s more

 

My student who stayed after to cry

and she meant she felt ready to die

so we just shared the shit that has been our year

how hard we are on ourselves

how that’s the real problem here

not the images I fear I’m forgetting

not the relationships failed and grasped toward

not the hunger in my gut for more

always more

but how human we are

and how fucking angry we are with ourselves

let me not conflate or assume or avoid responsibility here

 

How fucking angry I am

sometimes

at my humanness

 

This is life and it’s mine

and I remember it all if I sit with it long enough

I love and I hurt and I’ve been hurt

and it’s all fine

what matters is how I see it 

what I make of it

if I can remember

shift

redeem

 

I want an art that sits here anyway

and remembers

 

There’s more

there will be more

I want more

I will always want more

That’s what language is for, I think

 

This must be the season I’ve been asking for

silently

why I’ve been so spun up

so unsure

confused

afraid of naming it to make it real

but I asked for this

an art that goes on speaking

a spell an incantation a litany of desire

this place I can only reach

here alone in the hunger

 

here/right here//the darkness in which creation begins

here/right here//the darkness in which creation begins

Don't Be Afraid

I've been thinking about this blog post for months. Months? Is that true?

At one point it was called, "On the real." Then I changed it to, "The Truth." 

I wanted to write about how lately, I've been a little uncomfortable with only showing the good stuff. 

This came up a few times in conversation with friends after my breakup in February. How the shock of my ex and I splitting was not just mine, but shared. You always looked so happy, everyone said. 

And this came up after a day when I was alone and lonely and afraid, even though I had fallen for another woman I thought was the one. A woman who loved me, simply and wholly. I think.

I was alone on a Saturday morning sobbing uncontrollably. No, not uncontrollably. Just sobbing. She had left the night before, annoyed with me, and I had slammed my front door in frustration. I yelled. I felt like the world was falling apart. She just wanted to go to sleep after a long week. Didn't want to talk. I did. I didn't say it.

I called a few friends who have been my life lines this year. Because this year, I've needed a lot of help. It's been hard to tell when something small, a small fight between my lover and I, was really something small or something actually pointing me toward myself. Hard to tell if I was crying over the moment, over her, or out of a fear of abandonment after my long-ex ripped our life to shreds in mere hours. Or, if I was crying because something in my body was trying to speak that I wasn't yet ready to hear, or if I was crying because I was sad, still. Simply sad. 

This unknowing tainted many of my days after I had to leave New Mexico and my lover of almost 8 years. I spent 3 months walking around this city in heartbreak, in reckoning, in obsessive thoughts. In tears, in pain. And then I set myself free. Well, someone told me she was married and I took a deep breath, cut her off completely, and forced myself to be free, to see through my own glossy eyes. I started to write again. I began to let go. I wrote lists about what I wanted, how I wanted to live, how I wanted to show up for another. Lists about the kind of person I wanted to be with so I didn't just fall for the next person to pay attention to me. (My long-ex was the first person in years who looked at me, and I was so hungry I didn't even think is she right for me? I just took her in. I fell for her like leaves.) So I wrote. I defined. I spoke to the moon. I was a spell. 

This time it had to be me who decided. And I didn't think it would happen so quickly, but it did. And I believe in this power. I have to. It brought me to the next love. And we always get exactly what we need, right?  

I burned photos of the long-ex in the bathtub. Burnt sage and palo santo. Put what I wanted from my life in the window under the full moon. Asked myself for the life I wanted. Then I went out looking for it. I was an animal. I was hungry. My body was awake. I wanted. Oh, I wanted.  

And if you want something bad enough, you'll manifest it. That's the spirit of incantation. Of desire. The problem with desire is that one must feel a lack. And once you have, the desire wanes.

There she was. The next woman with all the things. And she filled me. And I took her. She took me, too. It was intense and desperate and a kind of magic, even though it was too much, too fast, too soon, too full of high expectations. 

I wanted everything. I wanted to feel like everything after being told I was nothing. I wanted to wake up in another before I had fully come back to myself.

I'm speaking in past tense because a few months later, it's over and it's painful. And now I have am covered in a year of heartbreak. It all bleeds together. When I was young, I cut my skin. Now, I am a river. And I'm looking back at the pain I've been carrying, the desire. The goddamn hunger that has been my life's weight, my life's work. What brings me to language and metaphor and poetry when nothing else matters but the human heart and all we thrust toward. 

Maybe I was trying too hard. Maybe it doesn't matter. 

I still don't know which pain was for which moment, which lover, which argument or silence. 

I don't want to keep talking about the long-ex and the better-ex. 

I can blame and analyze and try to make sense and excuse and apologize and shame myself because all I've been doing for months is this. Thinking I need to fix myself and quiet the self and unleash the self but the truth is simple: I am just fine. I love. I love the woman I left even though she ripped my life out from under me in a day and I love the woman here in Denver who fought with me and spun me up in a way that made me feel like a teenager waking up to her first sex. The truth is I've been forcing myself into spaces and places and people that are not mine. Why? Because here I am, a woman who knows so much and at the same time, knows so little. Who am I? What do I want? How do I love? Who should I love and let in?  

My body is a mountain of want, a river of desire, a flooding of passion and yearning and connection and sensuality. I may contradict and ask questions over and over, but if I don't say it now I never will: I have never done a thing I didn't want to do. Maybe this is the problem in learning that you also give yourself too freely, that something about the way you were born and raised made you codependent, made you so easily able to put yourself to the side to be with and give to another--that I actually do these things AND I know that I have never given myself away for nothing. Yes, this. I have been trying to fix what isn't broken. What happens if I simply accept that I love how I love? That I have made no mistakes. That even in my wavering and waffling I have been more me than ever? I have loved better than ever? And I deserve to be loved the way I want. We all do.

And this is holy. Desire is holy. Bodies are holy. Mistakes are holy. Attachment as it unravels is holy. My tears and sobs and prayers on my floor with my wet face to the dog hair and dirt are holy. 

That we can't help but only show off what is good, what we want others to see, is holy. 

That I want to resist the need to overshare all the beauty from here, too, is holy. 

I want you to see my pain. I want you to see my sadness. My too-muchness. My insataible hunger for more. I want to be met here. Meet me here, won't you? 

Maybe I'm turning away from what won't meet me here. Maybe I push and prod at the boundary when the boundary is not mine because I need the other person to tell me to go. Maybe I'm learning how to say no. 

Maybe all of this is true and I still don't want to let go. I still want to love. I still want the connection, the body in my bed, the beautiful, messy sometimes infuriating other lover in front of me.

Here is my vow to not be ashamed of myself and what I want anymore. My vow to conjure come to me, and I will receive you. Don't come, and I may still want you. Soon, I'll learn how to say yes to what sees me as whole.

I'll want the women of my life forever, and I will be both blue and full of light simultaneously and it does not for one single second take away from my big giant heart, my body that is strong and changing, my soul like a river, my Self, becoming. 

Recently I wrote, "don't be afraid to tell the truth about your life" on a student draft.

This, as I've been walking around hiding some of my truth every day. I'm a beautiful mess who was loved anyway. Who is loved. Who loves so fucking hard. Who tries to love with my whole self and often fails. I've been a dark mess searching for the light. I've been reaching but it wasn't wrong. I have work to do. But that work is mine.

It's true that I sometimes burden others with my story. I can own this and let it shift. I want to be story. I want your story. Let's lay our burdens on the table and see them, dance on them, share them, but not ingest and carry them anymore--not our own and not each other's.

But please, let us lay our lives in the light without shame.

My friends have been telling me all week to let go. Boundaries are hard. I don't trust them in myself. I never have. It's how I was raised and I was raised in so many beautiful, strong, powerful ways and I was also raised to distrust myself, to ignore boundary and push boundary and not even know what the word means. One friend said, "if you don't go toward yourself now, with all your love, you never will." 

I will tell the whole story as I live it, more honestly.

All the photos of the sun poking through the trees

and the dog running with me, mouth open, tongue draped around the orange ball between his teeth

and the woman I fell in love with so fast this summer smiling at me on a good day

after a weekend walking on red dirt between enormous arches and goblin dirt creatures

as the sun rose across an entire desert canyon of this earth's wanting, our bodies together entwined

hands on each other's hearts faces calm eyes bright and blue and green a love growing then gone

right beside the many moments of my grief like a pill stuck in my throat

my unclear heart pushing it all away

or my clear gut saying this isn't for you

my anxiety circling me around the room wanting to punch walls because focus is hard

because something in me can't quite let go of a voice that says, you can't do anything right so why try

my long walks with Pablo convincing myself I can show up even though sometimes I feel like I've failed at every single thing I've tried, yelling out loud to no one like a woman who should be strapped to a table

in a city that doesn't seem to mind no matter how many times I circle the block in tears

And then, here I am.

I am here when I accept the months of tears and sex and joy and pain.

I am here when I show up to teach even though I still think I'm unprepared but I am so wholly prepared and I love my students with my entire goddamn giant heart and we write and talk about images and the mass shooting in Las Vegas and how to show up and breathe trust language and story even when we don't believe breath or story or words are even things we own anymore.

I am here when the mantras work, when the sayings on my mirror and notecards are not affirmations, but poems. When my body settles, when I go to the poetry reading or sit down to write amongst a community of strangers. When I participate in a community talk about Citizen by Claudia Rankine and am led through a hybrid image/text writing prompt. I am here when I step outside and take a photo of the blue sky with the bright yellow sunset between two city buildings and then write. I write raw and with heart and gumption and an energy shows up in me that I haven't ever felt. It means almost nothing. Or, it means everything. 

 

Suddenly, the sky is a blue I can digest. Three wooden poles stark against it, electricity embodied and defined as three sisters, three shadows, three elements of what we create, speak through, and share. Bodies of connection against a blue like a reckoning, a blue like there is sunlight at its core, and there is—look, the base of us is opening. The space between those buildings, one industrial and one for living, that is the space where sunlit hope sets, where blue takes over, as it will, again and again. See how this was never about anyone or anything else? See how what stands stark and dividing is actually what makes us? See those dark and blackened windows–how they are nothing more than dark and blackened windows? A nothing that is everything that is drenched and held by blue, held by the sun setting, held by what breaks us in two? I see you, and by you I mean me and by me I mean I am and always have been as blue as blue can be and in this moment all I can say is thank you sky, thank you sky that witnesses all of us standing here mouths gaping open, hands on our throats fingers in our mouths fists between our legs and what, exactly, is a witness but someone who stands by and takes a photo of what presses toward us against us chafes the shadows lets us see the shadows? Let this blue held by light failing light falling held by the space between the buildings, the cleft of us the slit between the lips, let it tell us to stop witnessing and move toward the discomfort, the shaded windows, the bodies hungry on their couches in these chairs waiting for an answer that will not come because we have broken everything. We have broken everything. And to be broken is to be open and to be open is to let all the blue all the bluedark light pour through you.

Suddenly, the sky is a blue I can digest.

Three wooden poles stark against it, electricity

embodied and defined as three sisters, three shadows,

three elements of what we create, speak through, and share.

Bodies of connection against a blue like a reckoning, a blue

like there is sunlight at its core, and there is—look, the base of us is opening.

The space between those buildings, one industrial and one for living,

that is the space where sunlit hope sets, where blue takes over, as it will,

again and again. See how this was never about anyone or anything else?

See how what stands stark and dividing is actually what makes us?

See those dark and blackened windows–how they are nothing more than dark

and blackened windows? A nothing that is everything that is drenched and held

by blue, held by the sun setting, held by what breaks us in two? I see you, and by you

I mean me and by me I mean I am and always have been as blue as blue can be

and in this moment all I can say is thank you sky, thank you sky that witnesses all of us

standing here mouths gaping open, hands on our throats fingers in our mouths fists between

our legs and what, exactly, is a witness but someone who stands by and takes a photo

of what presses toward us against us chafes the shadows lets us see the shadows?

Let this blue held by light failing light falling held by the space between the buildings,

the cleft of us the slit between the lips, let it tell us to stop witnessing and move toward

the discomfort, the shaded windows, the bodies hungry on their couches

in these chairs waiting for an answer that will not come

because we have broken everything. We have broken everything. And to be broken

is to be open and to be open is to let all the blue all the bluedark light pour through you.

The truth is sometimes I'm overwhelmed. But I'm not as overwhelmed as I once thought. I'm calm and grounded, more than I've ever been. I cry a lot, and am nervous, and perhaps let myself love too soon because I was uncomfortable and unsure and I grasped a little too hard, but I also let go and I loved. I fucking loved. I was just me, showing up. I believed in her, in all the hers, in all the loves. I believe in myself, in all my love. What I mean is there's more to tell, more to show, more to offer. What I mean is the stories of our lives matter. And sometimes they're just the dirt under our feet as we look at the sky, the arches where the sun peaks through, the complimentary colors of us, the yellows and the blues. 

Don't be afraid to tell the truth. 

Collage

July, as witnessed. 

Some moments taken in the body like medicine, like herbs warmed in salt water, stirred and stirred. Drunk.

Some moments like clouds passing through. Like my whole body was a cloud amongst clouds. In the clouds. Air like air. Clouds like clouds. The visible masses of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere, typically high above the ground. Like sky was my emotional body and love and heartbreak and all my defensive parts, the rage and dependency and dark dark dark--all of it, the sky. Here, but passing and also everything. Infinity. Hard to grasp, though I still grasp.

Some moments spoken and forgotten. 

Some, with hard lines of intention (write every day; make a space here for intentional craft) that of course, I broke like the little rebellious fluid feeling heart that I am. Heart like sky. Heart like condensed water vapor. These things without boundary seeking boundary.

Here, the outer and the inner. What is remembered. What is crafted. What is imagined, dreamed, created, conjured. Creation. Create. Make. Produce. Bring forth. Beget. Artifice. Art. 

***

The sprinklers at night, the wet wet grass under the moonlight in Observatory Park. The way the dog walks in front of me through the dark and inside, I know I am safe despite safety being an illusion. The wet grass in the mornings and the sun through the trees. There is always a moment, half-alone with my dog on our daily walks, where I remember to take a breath. Whatever is circulating around my mind (the thousand-petaled mind) relaxes down into my feet as I sink my toes into the wet, dark mud. I say, look. And there it is, every time. The light, pointed or soft, behind something. Between, around, and through. Persisting. Tree leaves, iron fence posts, a house in the neighborhood that no longer fit between its expensive, stone-walled neighbors, demolished. A giant hole in the ground where a home used to be. One day, something a part of its foundation. The next, neither foundation nor its walls left but in memory. The quiet, raw earth beneath it revealed. Red mud, yellow bulldozers and giant silver wrecking balls idle beside what has been destroyed. What has been destroyed? Identity, again and again. Identify home. Identify love. Identify career. Identify this flight from Florida to Colorado. Identify this man beside me in his musty, thick flannel. Sawdust and the cologne of a farmer in the sky. Jeans like a farmer in the sky. Grunts and facial hair like a farmer in the sky. Small bible in his breast pocket like a farmer in the sky. Tan and crusted work boots like a farmer in the sky. Smile at me like a farmer in the sky as we cross over America and her struggling farms below, the long dirt roads between the cities, the tan and the green, the meandering crevices of water and how it, too, persists. Beside me, the farmer in the sky reads his pocket bible and takes notes in a larger bible. For a moment, I imagine him preparing a sermon. I close my eyes and feel his breath, how his large body can't help but take up space. How I try not to shrink beside him. How much I want us all to take up space without negating or encroaching beyond what is ours. What is ours? He reads the bible and I read Thich Nhat Hanh. I think about love. The love I left under the sky I loved. The love I am searching for in this sky, by this farmer, in myself, as he circles what he loves in pages I don't love but understand. The love I flew away from hours ago. The love beneath the love. The sky beneath the sky. What is the difference between desire and grasping? How to seek with our whole souls together, me in this short black skirt letting my hungry thighs free for the first time in years, and the farmer beside me in thick jeans and his old flannel breathing steadily, more steady that I have in a while, circling, circling, circling what he wants to be true. I circle how to love myself. We are all looking for this. The bodies, the shivers, the turns toward and away from those who choose to lay naked beside us. The wrinkles and gray hair and shifts in the gut, the cells as they make and remake what we think we are. The purple veins appearing like rivers seen from above. Something like blood on the surface. Something like a body who hasn't felt sweat like this since she left suddenly walking around Little Havana in Miami with a body she only sort-of-knows. Both of them covered in sweat and salt from the ocean that morning. Both of them dripping desire between the thighs. Both of them soft and hard, wanting something from the other but discovering new layers of armor, new ways to thrust forth anyway. There is nothing to escape or grasp so the bodies become all liquid and slippery together. All repel and repeat, all soluble and mixture. Not oil and water. But oil and oil. Water and water. Two things separate but still attracted by some similar force. Later, what comes up is welcomed. Here, what comes up is a storm. A storm like a bulldozer. A hunger like a hole in the ground where a house once was. Plans for home. Plans for love. Plans for something interdependent but whole. Wholesome. Hole. Whole. But that comes later. For now, the bodies need to keep coming together. Coming together. Today. And then, today. Once, there was a blue sky I didn't think I could leave. A blue I didn't know I could live without. And then, there was a sky more layered. Look, on this walk the sun is on the mountains headed to a better rest. The yellow there is a light I've never seen before. Above, the bluest purple of rain clouds that refuse to let go of their rain. And above that, the blue I thought I couldn't hold again. There it is, with me. Here I am, holding it. Look here, this is my space. My home. An apartment. Another place I'll leave. A space that is more beautiful than anything I've ever let myself create. Mine. More home than I've ever made. Come inside. See the woman sitting there in her quiet? She is happy. She is facing what she left. She is herself is herself is herself. Take it or leave it. Take it. Take me in. All I left made me capable. All I thought I loved makes me want to love more. All the loss is not loss. There is another woman sitting here. A notebook in her lap. An orange mechanical pencil. She lets me look into her eyes and hold the gaze without a flinch. This is god, is yoga, is to yoke. It is not about union as if we are all one. We are all actually separate, side-by-side. The gaze, the relationship, the holding and going in despite all the discomfort of showing up a human with so much stuff. Of wanting but not needing. Of desire like a hole in the ground. The dirt that sifts, takes in the water it is given. Hardens enough to build upon again. Walls built like arms open to the sky.

 

                                                               feet on the ground. feel it all. notice. respond. 

                                                               feet on the ground. feel it all. notice. respond. 

Outer World/Inner World and the Magic of Practice

I'm intending this space towards art and craft. A seed, if you will, or a backdrop, or a public accountability foundation, for embodying a daily writing practice again. And keeping it. 

Otherwise, as we know, I'll just keep spilling my inner world raw and messy in the moment all over this thing. And we know (I say it all the damn time) that this raw, real sharing is a big part of my aesthetic, my more gritty-spiritual/live-your-real-out-loud-if-ya-feel-it practice. But, in truth, it's only half of it. I need a quiet, sacred practice of spill, then craft. Expand, contract. Express, then form. 

Since I left New Mexico, the only way I could stay connected to language, words, and art was by doing this here. It healed/is healing me. I'm a mucky mess of rebirth every day. It looks wildly different every day. Sharing it when I can reminds me that I'm still a writer, even when I'm not writing much. Even when I'm not crafting perfect lines or thinking about poetry and revision. I'm still making something. I'm still offering it. And in return, I've been ingesting and digesting the world as art. I've been participating in the give and take of creation, in little ways. And since the root of the word poem is a created thing, I'm telling myself that it's all poetry all the time over here, baby. Until I believe it. Until I start seeing again and then documenting it like my life depends on it. This is how we keep going, right? We accept and respond to things as they are in order to make real change. We love and keep making things, anyway. Despite. Even if there's no time. Especially if there's no time. We tell ourselves that we are doing the thing even when we aren't sure if there is any thing to show for it.

See, look at me go. 

I remember a teacher, probably Tim, telling me once, after reading my long long sprawling poem drafts, that big ideas and huge emotional narratives/lyrics need a form. I've always resisted form. I want to take up space and collect as much as I can on the go. The problem is that I could never quite get a grasp on my subject matter (or my body, or my desires, or my fears) because there was no container. No boundary. If you know me, you know I am all of this all the time and it takes a lot of presence and practice to get my nervous system to be still and focus on one thing. I can literally take anything to the ends of the galaxy and back and barely take a breath. I've learned to accept this about myself, about my art. That I can take up space and resist shame. That I can be still and strong and grounded and at the same time, expansive. I can be both. But I had to accept form as practice. Grounded, quiet, daily practice as holy. I'm still working on this, obvs.

So, the point. The form. The intention: I don't want to box myself in here too much by giving ultimatums or deadlines or have-tos. But I do want to practice daily witnessing in language. If we're all inner world, we forget to see the magic in the world of things, in the way the sunlight illuminated the backs of giant green elephant ears in the park today as the day bowed over the Rockies. The way they rustled in the wind like a prayer. And if we're all outer world, then we never ask ourselves why that particular moment in time felt like a prayer instead of a surrender, or applause.

The inner and the outer world intersect. Inform. Infer. Interrogate. Our metaphors can be shared, but they are also particular. Our images, the way we ingest and understand the world through the senses, shape what we remember, how we relate, and what resonates. I've been stuck in my inner world. Noticing and connecting a little, but letting the moments pass me by. And after months of not writing much of it down, I feel like it's passing me by. Write it down, all the teachers say. Don't let the muse go when she arrives. And if she's playing hard to get, seduce her. Bring her to you. Sensuality and seduction have come back into my life, so why not seduce my art?

So. I'm going to begin a daily writing practice (again.) I only have to do five minutes a day. That's it. I have time for five minutes. Always. I can easily spend five minutes less on so many things. But I will allow myself to go on if I want to. My only rule (these are helpful little writing practices I've used on my students that I need to start using on myself) is that I have to describe one thing in the outer world I noticed that day, and let THAT inform anything going on in my inner world. So often I begin by airing out my fears, worries, to-do lists, desires, etc. and become exhausted by the same old shit inside before I even get to anything worth writing about. So I'm flipping the switch.

Start with an exhaustively described moment I noticed in the outer world that day, then let it go from there. And the form? Little prose poem drafts. Raw drafts. Bam. That's it.  I'll do them on my own and share the good ones here every few days. There, I said it. Make me do it, okay? Anyone? 

Here's my first little super-draft from yesterday:

After hours in the sun with Pablo Neruda the dog, on a cool, late-June Colorado afternoon with nothing to do but feel my pen in my hand, the warmth of a lucky Friday night off all over me, we stand up lazy and sun-drunk, strap on our bags and leashes, and begin the walk home to my apartment through the opulent, flower-covered neighborhoods between that kind of life and mine. Across the street, two teenage-girls break away from their group of friends all draped over an empty elementary school playground. I can smell the angst, the joy and pleasure of loud music in public on a summer afternoon. The group of young men and women are all body, all expression. Some lean to one side with confidence, others bounce around telling the rest why this song is lit, a few carry the posture of self-doubt: shoulders curled in like a protection, fingers fidgeting with clothes and how terribly they fit hormonal growing bodies. The two girls though, they leave together with a small speaker blaring music. One's hair is long and blonde and straight, and I remember wanting my frizzy curly brown hair to be exactly like hers at that age. She's on a skateboard and she tosses a rope to her friend, who hops on a bicycle. They pull each other down the street, unashamedly loving their music, this moment, each other. I'm assuming that last thing, but I want to believe it. Women don't actually hate other women until we're told to. The blonde's long hair is a pendulum to the beat. They turn almost simultaneously to wave goodbye to the rest of the draped-ones and keep floating to their next destination. I don't remember ever being able to break away from the group like that, so hungry I was for acceptance and belonging. There is a kind of lightness here. A kind of innocence I want to remember. A kind of youth I didn't really have. A communal quality to life in the city I only dreamed about. And a kind of ease in the body I only watched from afar at that age. Short jean shorts, movement that is fluid and at least faking confidence. I still want to see this from where I stand now. Only today, I feel my body like I wanted it to feel then. Lighter, more able to break away from the group and float down the street with someone I love. More sturdy in the bone structure of what holds this constant desire. Away they go, laughing. For a moment, free. Are we ever more than this? 

 

 

                                               practice. pay attention. quiet the mind. see. 

                                               practice. pay attention. quiet the mind. see. 

Big Love/Big Pain

"Cause when I look around
I think this, this is good enough
And I try to laugh
At whatever life brings
Cause when I look down
I just miss all the good stuff
When I look up
I just trip over things." Ani Difranco

Yes, I'm here to write about the heart again.

Yes, there are things going on in the world that need commentary.

But writing about the human heart is also a radical act.

And I still believe that the best thing we can do for the world is become fully human, fully awake, emotionally responsible and intelligent in a way that cares deeply, and is also capable of letting go. I mean, if I'm not working through my shit, how the hell am I going to show up for others? I love showing up for others. I'm setting the groundwork for a life that takes care of myself and simultaneously encourages others. A life about service, education, art, and love that is simple, big and free. A life that's about holding others up to the light, myself included. 

I last wrote about water.

About the body. My body.

My body of water.

How I'd become something dry and brittle and afraid of her thirst. (Funny, I left the water for the desert. This warrants some thought.)

How becoming was a very very fluid letting go and also something firm like the ocean as she is if we see her from afar--an entity with power and domination, vulnerability, movement, and calm.

And since I wrote about what it felt like to be in a liquid becoming, I've felt more alive, more me, more FULL than I've ever felt in my life. 

And in this fullness, I've fallen in love. With another woman. With myself, with my friends, with my own desire and hunger again.

Not again. Anew. 

And in this becoming and falling in love I've also felt more heartbreak than ever before. More heartbreak than I was feeling even as I drove away from the home I thought was mine and wasn't. The love I thought was love but wasn't. 

What does this mean? To be both full of love and ready to be so fucking ME. And at the same time, to feel more tender, more afraid, and at times more blue than I've ever felt before? 

Doesn't it mean there's still an opening here? Isn't there always? A constant voice reminding me: go through. Dive deep. Take off your clothes your armor your defense mechanisms your skin your fear of loss your resistance and drench yourself in this. Become wet. Become water. Trust. 

These moments of depth for me are always a bit melancholy. Those of you that know me well know this. Some of you have tried to keep me from my melancholy, to protect me, because you love. I love you. But something is happening as I spend my days getting to know someone new who sees me and holds me but also asks me to accept this and allow trust to just flow. Someone who lets me love her and doesn't recoil. Who watches me recoil and sob because I'm still in the broken-openness of what just happened. Who witnesses my what-ifs and my spinning out and my tears and tells me it's good. That I'm good. That she's there. I see you, she says. Let me see you.

Didn't I ask for this?

I did. I did in a way that witches do. The way women use their power and always have. So I can't stop now. I asked for the kind of love that is also work. That is vulnerable and shifts, shows up. Is kind when it's not perfect. Perhaps this is just another thing that will take patience. Another process, like art. And home.

And as usual, I'm impatient. I want it all right now. I want to know to have to see to have assurance to grip to hold to be told it will never change.

And of course, that's not water. That's not life-giving. Water knows, this earth knows, life knows that we don't get to know.

AND. If we want a full life, we still have to go all in. We have to love anyway. We have to find ways to be Love even when it hurts or we've been hurt or everything about the body screams RUN IT'S TOO HARD YOU DON'T DESERVE THIS. Water doesn't run. It shifts and molds and moves into the space it is given. It is destruction and it is peace. It is dark and blue and deep and mysterious. And it lets you in.

But oh let me tell you, this kind of love is going to hurt. And I don't just mean in this one relationship. But the kind of love I've asked for. The kind of love poetry is. The love that death is, that loss is, that desire chafes up against. And let me say that loving so close to heartbreak is a ship to sea without a sail. Every day I must forgive myself for all that leaks. And hope that I keep loving myself, first, no matter what's in front of me. Every day I keep floating even though I can't see the shore. 

Every day I say I'm not afraid of this and also oh fuck I'm so afraid of this. 

*** 

Today I talked to S during her last day at her writing conference and we did what we do when we both have so much to say and express. We said "Hi, how are you?" and immediately began discussing the heart, and our hearts, what we're yearning for learning into thinking about letting go of making art for. And I said something like, "Fuck, S. What if this is the real spiritual path? What if to love hard and deeply and to really commit ourselves to the human experience we have is to feel Love AND Grief side-by-side, forever? What if we can't have one at its essence without the other?"

And she did what she usually does when I'm like this: she cut right to it. "There is no what if. It's just both. All that worry and gripping so fucking tightly," she said in her fierce way, "only keeps us in suffering."

Or something like that. But I heard her. All we share is how deeply we feel and hurt and yearn. And oh how much I want to keep being me, which includes all of these sparkly darknesses, but oh how I long to let go a little. To go with the fucking flow, as they say. To love and let go in a way that is soft and still warm and still present and authentic and in relationship. 

 

And then I stopped by R's apartment on the way to a meeting. I was dropping off a suitcase for her to borrow, and there she was, my strong friend who gets shit done and moves on with a kind of strength I've never seen in others, in a puddle of tears on the floor. I've never seen her that way, even though 5 long months ago she saw me that way every day when she rescued me from a life my body can barely remember.

Today she was all water, too. She'd given herself fully to a beautiful man, fully to love, to someone who saw her the way I've wanted her to be seen for so long. The way I see her. And he, lovingly, with such grace, told her he wasn't ready for that kind of love yet. And she thanked him in her grief. She stayed open. And then he was gone. So I held her as she cried and I also cried and I thought this is what life isThese are the risks we have to take. Because she looked at me in her tears and heaves and smiled. She didn't regret a thing. She only felt love for him, and it was the most pain she'd ever felt in her life.

 

Because it is BOTH. To be whole means we have to be willing to witness the shifts and dualities. We have to be willing to give ourselves to each other even though we have no guarantees. This is something I thought I was working through with T, but I was really just holding on. I don't want to hold on anymore. I want to let go.

I want to trust and feel love that is also loss. Not just in relationship, though I do think relationship is our greatest teacher. I think in relationship(s) all our crap rises to the surface and we have to just bow in grace to the goddesses of our inner worlds. We are who we are. And we can change, but it has to be both. It has to be full of love and the pain love carries. It has to be a risk that is grounded in body. It has to be gentle and a goddamn feminist warrior who keeps going despite it all. Who can detach from outcome and expectation in a way that still says, I'm all in. I'm here. I want to show up. Witness me as I am, and I'll witness you where you are, and in that we'll see what beauty really is

 

Because beauty is more. It is so much more.

Beauty is keep going.

It's be okay no matter what. 

It's ask for what you want and accept the hell out of it when it shows up. 

It's forgive yourself if you fuck it all up. 

It's the light surrounded by the shadow. 

It's this whole story, illuminated.

It's stay in your own body, its needs, its desires, its deep ground, first. Then show up whole for those that matter. 

It's everyone matters. 

It's look forward. Not at the spilled cups beside you, but at the full ones right in front of you. Not at the smoke in the mirror, but what's beyond the mirror. Around it. Everything else but the what ifs and the lessons behind you. Just forward. 

 

IMG_1003.JPG

Become/Becoming

I've tried to write this post a hundred times over the past few weeks. I didn't like that my last few posts were about the breakup. Because my life lately is not ALL breakup and figuring my way through a silent ex-life. But as we know, I can't just write about the world without including what's bubbling in the interior. Don't misunderstand me. I am open but I keep some things sacred, and I believe we all should. Even if we share our most truest stories, our most delicate darknesses, it's still impossible to be seen completely. Maybe we can only get close. 

Or can we? 

Loss is an interesting thing. The process of grief and deep heartbreak is something everyone will experience, something we can all talk around, understand logically, and intellectualize in an attempt to grasp and pin down, but until it's in the body, until you are living through it, whether you're paying attention or not, it doesn't matter what you know. The body will show you. 

Since February, and perhaps for a few months before, I've been all body. All water and saturation, all tears and the weightiness of an ocean about to shift. Then I was in the shift, and though I'm still feeling the pull of tides, the storm is settling into my bones. I was lonely, and I felt change coming. I didn't know what that change was, but looking back on the winter, I think I knew I was headed somewhere else. I was sad and hungry, needy and reaching for knowledge and comfort, love and connection. I was bleeding news stories and songs and begging for friends and connecting with students as if something was missing at home. Something was missing at home. It had been for a long time. 

Then, I was broken. My body leaked water. I cried, I shit, I dry-heaved until I couldn't take in a thing. I couldn't eat, I could barely drink. I woke up crying, I called my friends and cried. The water wouldn't stop coming out of me. I was a skin-sack of repeating damaging thoughts wandering around scared and insecure. How to talk about loss? How to accept defeat, rejection, and also know that it was so so necessary? How to talk about a shift in identity and a new awareness of attachment style? How to talk about shame and vulnerability in a way that owns what is true and also sets me free? 

I knew I was becoming. I knew I was letting go of water-weight. I knew I'd been holding in all the protest. I knew my relationship ending was the best thing that happened to me. I knew I'd thank her for it all one day. Thank myself for what I learned there. I just wanted the mess of me to be over. I was so sick of myself. But I kept showing up. I gave myself little things. I promised every day to honor my process, even if that honoring felt like faking it. I hurt all over. I wanted to know what was next, but my body said stay. 

A few weeks ago, I started to feel things shift. I began noticing things again. I heard verses in my head. Moments in the world began to illuminate and make sense again. I started journaling, drafting, taking notes for future poems. Or, just to get the muck out of my head. I was starting to feel my feet again as more than just liquid and nerves. My legs. My pelvis and deep belly. My shoulders were rolling back, freeing the front of my chest, just a little. My eyes were softening, my vision widening. I saw a therapist, and even though sitting there talking about everything over and over again like I had for months made me anxious and a little manic, it felt good to be seen from a distance. Even though I could feel my neuroses and intensity heightened, my shame sitting on the surface of my sensitive skin, I knew I was ready to do the work. 

Step one: Keep doing things. I mean daily things, like just getting up and declaring it a win. And when I'm stuck in my head, take Pablo for a long walk. Long walks have saved me. I've walked in the rain for hours, here, and I've walked through the snow at midnight. When taking a long walk, remember what it means to witness. Breathe into the belly. Look around. Take mental notes. Remind myself what poetry means to my soul, and take in images, even if I'm terrified I'll never write again, never be seen. 

Step two: Keep going to work. Work is hard. I forget that I'm a teacher sometimes. I get sucked into the interpersonal drama of restaurants, and the place I chose to work is top dollar, all prim and proper while lately I feel anything but. I'm stressed and tired and don't get home until 3am some nights. I miss my mornings, my students. Keep going. Connect with people who want me to connect with them. Be genuine. Be me.

Step three: Speaking of being me, really start to define this. Because the scariest and most exciting part of coming out of a codependent relationship willing to learn and change is that I get to decide now who I want to be. What do I really want in a partner? In love? In silence? In the world? Where are my friends and why have I neglected them for so long? Do I really want to teach? Am I really a poet? Do I want to make love in just one way? Do I need a glass of wine to relax? Do I really not want marriage? Kids? Where do I want to live? Can I crave nature and rely on the city? Do I want that many dogs? Can I build things on my own? Do I want to? Stay open. Spend time really being open to possibility. 

Step four: Me first, then the world. Self-care. Sleep. Beautiful food. Time alone. Books. Movement. Meditation. Then, slide into the flow. Or not. Whatever I want, really. 

Step five: Write down qualities I want in a person. Ritualize this. Ask for it. Demand it with my words and whole body, some smoke and candles in the dark of night during a powerful full moon as I burn my old life to ashes in the tub. Play on dating apps and practice saying no to people I don't feel. Own it. Say yes to someone I do. Let her in. Be body heavy together. Ask deep questions, listen, make love. Know that life is too fucking short and anything could change at any time, so say yes to what feels right. (And stay clear, take only what I need, and don't hurt anyone in the process.) 

Step six: Slow the fuck down. Ask these questions but remember I don't need to know anything at all. I'm allowed to change my mind, to become someone that feels the most me I've ever felt but also someone I don't really recognize. Let myself be excited by this. Become this. 

Step seven: Go to the woods alone. Feel cold, and afraid. Be quiet and disconnect for a while. Prepare to do this again and again until it's second nature. Until fear is just a friend in the chest. 

Step eight: Know I can do anything. I can take anything. I can feel and be vulnerable and let go, be grateful, take no shit, and also, endure. (Read stories about people who barely survived. Remember we all survive in our own ways, but many many others have it so much harder. This doesn't diminish my pain. But don't forget global perspective. Remember my calling: to encourage, praise, encourage, and praise.)

built to endure

built to endure

Deleting You, Choosing Me

Folks, not even 3 months after the woman I loved broke up with me, tried to blame her years of silence on my creative heart and not-always-happy depth of a soul, the woman who told me over and over again that she did not believe in marriage, that she wanted the life we were building, the woman who shuddered and walked away every time I asked her for anything in our relationship that filled my needs as a living, breathing, sexual human. That woman is married. To the woman she left me for, the woman she cheated on me with. 

I'm not writing this to blame her. I get what she did. The problem is, she spent years saying NOTHING and assuring me that she was happy. That we were happy. That my worries were in my head, that it was all my problem, not hers. But all this time, she wasn't happy. And you know what, neither was I. 

If you know her, knew us, I don't want to cloud what you think of her. I have my own anger and blame to deal with, but she chose her own happiness that day and hasn't looked back, will barely speak to me, and is angry if I express my feelings AT ALL. So, please, know this is the last time I will spend words here on that breakup, my resentment, what went wrong, and all my confusion. 

Because suddenly, it all makes sense. I chose to love her as I wanted her to be. She didn't love me, and hadn't loved me for years. Of course, she'll say otherwise. But she didn't. And I let her not love me. I blamed myself all the time, felt ashamed that I wasn't seen as a sexual being, felt ashamed that something I had done caused her to never want to know about my days, my feelings, my inner world. 

And you know what? I'm fucking done with that, ya'll. Every day I have to tell myself I'm enough, that I'm fine the way I am, that 7.5 years was not wasted. Because I don't think I could have learned this any other way: it is really really hard to ask for what you need and be received, and even harder to walk away from someone who won't receive you as you are. This difficulty is worth it. Because from where I'm standing, the feeling that "I should have demanded more for my own heart, body, and soul" is a haunting, tough tonic to swallow. I know now that I was trying to show how special we were. I was presenting us as a perfect couple and her as a person who didn't exist. I know now that I wanted so badly to be loved by her that I stopped knowing I actually deserve the kind of love I need, and if I'm not receiving it, I have every right to walk away. 

I should have walked away. But I didn't. And now I can't control the story she tells about me and who she thinks I am. I deleted her from my life and asked to never see or speak to her again, and I guess that gave her the freedom to share her news? Who knows. But in her mind, I'm a messy woman full of feelings and demands that seem crazy to her. And for months now, I've felt lost in all her silence. I've asked myself what's wrong with me? Why can't she even say something nice to me? Why won't she tell me what's going on with our dogs and my goddamn land I spent so long working on with her while my art and my heart were put to the side? Who stops loving someone so abruptly? What could I have possibly done? Why won't she say even a word? 

No more. I wanted so badly to be mature and have a healthy breakup. But, people show you who they are, and she has always been this. Say nothing until it bursts, then walk away and leave the broken one in the dust. Control and manipulate her more by refusing to show up in the mess of it. Get angry at her anger, even though she's the one who has every right to be angry. 

What I know now is that the more mature thing to do is decide for myself who I want in my life. The more awake thing is to create a healthy boundary around someone who treats me like shit and rubs my face in it. The stronger choice is to say never again will I let your silence and judgment and attitude about the world cloud my own self worth. Maturity is fuck you. I choose me. 

Choosing me means feeling all my feelings. Choosing me means sharing my story and showing up for all the beautiful people who have supported me in this really wild, messy heartbreak and pain. Choosing me means making art and cooking beautiful food and going out and exploring the city to make new friends. Choosing me means taking Pablo to the mountains every chance I get. It means getting naked and being proud in my body. It means relearning my heart and what I want in this world and in my life, first, not intertwined or codependent upon someone else's needs and desires. It means loving this world in a big beautiful way. It means trusting people. It means loving my friends and being good to each other. 

Choosing me means I'm going to be good to myself, first. It means "Boy, Bye." It means I have no shame here. It means I am good and I want to surround myself with good people who show up for each other, who communicate and play and are free with their bodies. Who dance in the rain and laugh loudly and do yoga and heal together. Oh how we will heal together, all of us, if we keep choosing to love ourselves, first. 

I have shit to do on this planet. For too long, I put it on the back burner. I have people to love fiercely who want my love, and I have big and better love to receive. I'm not sorry anymore. I did the best I could. 

What's next for me? Is what I get to ask now. Knowing this has actually given me the freedom I need. And what a good reminder that the hard stuff is hard but god damn, truth is better than silence. It really does set you free. I'm moving on. I'm going to make things. Stay tuned, ya'll. 

 

Grief, Adjacent To

It's time to move forward. It's time to stop talking about myself.

No, wait. I am moving forward. And what I mean is it's time to talk/write/express myself AND engage with this world. 

In part, I've been writing here to help me express my pain and loss because she is gone from my life and wants no part of me. Well, she doesn't want the whole me. She wants easy, fake-happy conversations about the dogs, and for me to assure her that I'm okay, that what she did was right, that I forgive her. 

In order to live with a big giant broken heart and still love the world, I am okay. I do forgive her. What she did was right not because it was the best way to break us up but simply because it happened. And I need a semi-public space to remind myself how to show up and take up space and share it all because that's what I want for the world: more humans sharing their stories while we all listen and nod, love ourselves and each other anyway. Where we don't turn away from the personal heartbreak or the terror in the streets. We show up. Despite.

But I am never all-okay. I am never fake-happy. I am never going to be content walking and playing with the dogs in the woods and saying nothing about the big stuff, pretending 45 didn't just bomb Syria, pretending human life isn't about pain and depth and sometimes-good, sometimes-horrible seasons. I will not stop talking about the news, or railing about injustice, or thinking about language, bodies, and art in a way that confuses me, makes some days heavy, and others lifted, sparkly, and connected. I want the whole package. I do want to play in the woods with the dogs and  enjoy quiet, simple moments. But I also want to feel pain, to understand and engage with people, show up as a whole self who is constantly thinking about everything. So yes, I'll keep sharing the truth of my own life here, and maybe she'll read it so she'll know I forgive her and accept what happened, but I will never tell her what she did was okay. All the unhappiness she hid from me and lied about, and all her silence she tried to break me with in the end. I'll never pretend that I'm living this life to be simply happy and blind, or that I won't carry her in my bones my pelvis my chest and lips every day. I refuse to let go in a way that denies my body its feelings and expressions. I can let go in a way that also accepts what is held. That is my truth and I will keep sharing it. 

I will keep sharing it because last night two people reached out to me after seeing some of my posts on social media. This has happened more than once after I shared something raw in a public, unapologetic way (that of course is also terrifying.) One, I only know as a poet that I friended on Facebook. Another was a woman we hung out with a few times on the Eastern Shore with mutual friends years ago. We aren't super close. We drank and partied and talked a few times, but we barely know each other. Both had been following my raw sharing journey, and reached out to say thank you. In the conversations that followed, I learned about their current heartbreaks and hard lessons, their worries and fears and doubts and also their persistence. And I learned this because I told the truth about my life, my pain, my own ugliness and discomfort that sits right beside my joy and passion and desire for living a life that is full.

I was lifted, they were lifted, and I was reminded of who I was starting to become before T, and again before we moved: a person who believes in people. Someone who knows there is something to be said for sharing our real shit. A woman who sometimes unabashedly shares the raw details of her life, even when people want to fix me or give unsolicited advice for how to quickly move on, or how to more deeply give myself time and patience, or how to go out and meet someone who will love me and touch me and respect me. All of it is good advice, but I don't share because I need to cry out for help, and I don't share to say look at me, though in a way, it is about being seen. It's because what the fuck else are we supposed to do? Hurt people who don't process their hurt walk through this world pretending everything is fine and then they hurt people, and usually they hurt those they love the most. And if we don't process and share and feel and connect through our stories of hurt, the cycle will go on. I'm okay that I've been hurt. It's my story and it sucks the life out of me some days, but I'm fine with it. I know I'm strong and whole and enough and I know I'm deeply committed to learning from this. And I also know that sometimes we can't help the hurt we cause, but we certainly can keep the more fucked up hurt at bay by witnessing our own pain, and by showing up for others in a real way. 

I won't ever hurt someone the way I've been hurt. I know that. Because revenge, like war, is a lazy form of grief. 

So, my process and my story are still important. In connecting with strangers through this grief, I've relearned the core of my aesthetic nature, my heart's goal on this planet: to stop hiding and running away from the pain. I want to share the discomfort. I want to share the story of my life down to the heartbreak, the sexless relationship, the hungry heart who stayed with someone who was never really there for me the way I needed. And I want to go back and share the rest of my history and grit, the cutting and bingeing and purging, the family in all our disastrous, wild Appalachian glory, the young treks in the woods with my brother and how I treated him, the alcohol and drugs and failures and blacked-out sex and dangerous drives home and puking in the woods and convincing and lying and stealing and hiding and fear and anger and also the joy and loss and love and the way two women can make something like love from the curves of their bodies last longer than the flame. 

AND. 

There is a burning, flailing world I want to get back to. I know I am a teacher. I know I can lead young queer writers into their own truths. I know I can stay abreast of this growing war and our politics and I know I can speak up. I can refuse to collapse into my own pain much longer and become again an active agent in this world. A global citizen. I want to show up for those who are marginalized and afraid, for those who need help. I want to encourage others to keep making art even as the bombs drop because art is about documenting truth AND beauty. It is resistance. Art is life and life is shifting, people are dying, so we must keep creating before it's all taken away from us. Agency is art. Movement is power. We must keep moving forward. We must witness the brutality of a chemical attack adjacent to the spring snow covering the cherry blossoms. We must give ourselves time and we must take back our time. 

I was in love with someone who I'm only now realizing was never right for me. I would have loved her until we were old and gray. It would have been beautiful, in its own way. I grieve that love because it is gone. Because I had no say. Because it is a dream lingering in my mind all day. It is a flash of her face as she turned over in bed every night, rejecting me again and again with her easy sleep, the memory reminding me that I was never loved wholly, fully, the way I needed to be loved. The way I need to be in love. 

And this sits adjacent this day of bombs over Syria, of the babies and adults I saw gasping for air in a live news feed, of the man holding his dead twin toddlers in his arms unable to cry. Some things are more important than lost love. We move on because our grief is collective and our shared humanity demands we feel it all. Shared humanity demands we forgive ourselves for the selfishness of love and desire, of needing to hide in our pain for a little while, all so we can show up again with more gumption, more grit, more NO.

NO, I won't take that kind of love back into my life AND NO, we won't take this kind of war again. NO, we won't let civilians die and NO, we won't let our cowardly leaders close our borders to those who need us most. We won't just bow our heads and let the pain of this world close us off. I won't be with someone who can't communicate, who doesn't like people, who thinks the worst of this world. And we won't let the worst of this world close us off, OH NO, because our vulnerability is what hurts the most AND what makes us better. 

Make me better; make us better. Grieve the personal; grieve the political. They are side-by-side. They are one and the same.

Please, Tell Me How

Tell me how to keep the good days. 

Tell me how to sleep better at night, how to stop dreaming of you and her. How to stop following the both of you into the woods, waking up angry, my face smashed and my body tight. 

Tell me how to stop walking through the park at night, whimpering and feeling grief as if you were dead. It feels like you're dead. Where did you go?

Tell me how to stop retracing my steps, how to stop replaying what was said. And what you'll never say. And planning what to say in case you do call. You'll never call. I'd do anything to hear your voice, to hear you say you love me, that you're sorry (and actually mean it.)

Tell me how to stop pretending like there are things you want to say. You'd rather say nothing. Or, I don't know what to say. When it hurts like this all I want is to know that I didn't love a ghost, a liar, a fake. I think I loved a ghost. I loved a liar. I loved a fake. 

Tell me how to stop wanting you anyway.

Tell me how to go to work and talk to new people in a new city and pretend like I wanted this. I didn't want this. I miss my home, my dogs, my goats and office and sky. I miss you.

Tell me how to stop repeating myself. I want to stop telling this story, feeling this way. I want to stop wishing you missed us. Don't you? 

Tell me how to stop walking around this city wishing I was somewhere else, anywhere else. How to stop begging time to speed up. 

Tell me how to hold onto the truth of this. The truth is you created a situation in which you would always win. And I'd always be in a puddle on the ground wanting more, you towering over me disgusted by everything I feel.

Tell me how to actually hear those that love me when they say you set me free. I do not feel set free. Not yet.

Tell me I'm good. Tell me I'm beautiful. Tell me you want me, that you always wanted me, that you didn't know how. That you're the failure, not me. That you were unhappy and couldn't tell me, and you're sorry for blaming that on me.

Tell me that you didn't stop loving me long ago. That you didn't actually assure me every day with your words and your silences and your okayness that yes, you were happy and everything was fine. You told me you were happy, that everything was fine. That our life together was just beginning. Of course, you always said. Fuck your of course.

Tell me that I didn't waste my years with you.

Tell me to stop wishing you never pursued me. To stop wishing the day you asked me to go that party never happened. To stop wishing I just ignored the text and stayed home, ate Chinese food and had some wine, went to bed and started my MFA strong and free. 

Tell me how to live through this pain. How do we live through heartbreak, really? I know how. I see it in how you turned away from me. I see it in how everyone is constantly turning away. Everyone has such heartbreak in their bones. It's no wonder we're all walking around distracted, just trying to be happy and pretend the world isn't fucked. The world is fucked. We fuck each other and then we fuck the world. I want to be better. Tell me how to love someone better. 

Tell me the real shit, people. Not how to be patient, how to trust the process, how to feel it all and be kind to myself. It doesn't really help. I'm doing all that. I have no choice. There's nothing else to do. I have a job and in a few months, I'll have my own place again, and in a few more months, I'll be someone with new eyes. But seriously, tell me how to get through the days that sit on my chest. That seem to say, she was your only shot, and she doesn't want you anymore. Tell me how to stop thinking about how I would have loved her as long as she lived. 

Tell me the dogs are okay. Tell me the land is still beautiful. Tell me that was my house, too. Tell me the sunsets are a thousand different colors every day, and the goats call to you every morning and night for treats. Tell me you didn't bring her into our bed the day I left, the day we sobbed so hard in each other's arms we choked. Tell me my bright blue office is still empty, the photos of us in the bag in the closet untouched because it's too hard. 

Tell me it's hard for you, too. 

Tell me something, anything.

Tell me how I loved someone for so long that was so afraid of words. 

When the Dust Begins To Settle, When the Dust Is Gone

 

The tears don't come as easily, as quickly. They don't come rising out of you like aftershocks everyone knows are coming, but can't quite predict. They stop coming at all. This is a sign that you've moved through something and are standing on the other side. It is sad in a new way. It is sad in a way that needs to be carried for a while. It is sad because you are moving on. 

 

You are offered two jobs at the best restaurants in your new city. A city that is full of foodie havens, James Beard finalists, and hip, farm-to-table cuisine in high demand. They are both consistently booked. You say yes to both, and try to give yourself some confidence and power in this choice. Your friends tell you your hustle is incredible. Your ability to get up and become new again in less than a month. Two jobs! So-and-so never hires new people! I staged there and they didn't call me back--I'm so jealous! You'll look back at this later as your transformation story, girl. Own it. You are doing the damn thing. You don't quite believe them yet. 

While following one of the servers at one of the restaurants during the very competitive stage (audition) process, that server introduces herself, and you, to the table. Her name is Tiff. The table loves you both and proceeds to call you T and T. You smile. Your stomach feels like a rock. But you keep moving. You need this job. 

While following another server at the other restaurant, you meet Tracy, the sweet, fun, blonde, hippie-chick and want to hate her for her name and what that name will always remind you of, but you don't. You want to hold grudges for everything that reminds you of the pain and loss of your partnership, but you don't. This means you've matured and grown. This means you are hearing your own voice and desires again. This means you can sense the learning process is close. This also means you are moving on. 

 

In a yoga class, you wear a tank top that you haven't worn since last summer in the home you carry now only in memory, and debt. As you fold into yourself and breathe deeply after a sweaty class, you find dog hair from the three dogs you no longer own woven between the mesh holes. As you fold deeper, you break focus and start pulling them off, leaving them on the hardwood floor to be swept up after you leave. You feel the well of what, weeks ago, would have been an uncontrollable sob rise from your gut and tickle your skin. As you breathe, it lingers and passes. It is bearable. It is there, but also gone. 

 

You stop dreaming of her and her new girlfriend. You stop asking why and start accepting. After a short communication that feels like bullshit small talk about the dogs, you write one last, long email in an attempt to take back some power. You claim your own strength again, in a way. You know she won't respond. She doesn't. It hurts, but you know now you actually didn't write it for her. It was for you. You grabbed some autonomy in it and it doesn't matter anymore if she receives it. You are unsure now if she ever received you fully, as you are. You give yourself comfort in knowing you did everything you could to receive her until you couldn't anymore, because she wouldn't let you. Didn't want you to. And you can't change that, or her. And you no longer want to.

 

You can hear your own heart speak again. Your heart tells you what you want in love, in relationships. Your heart tells you how badly you'd been neglected, how badly you neglected yourself. That it's all fine. This was the only way. Your mind is still able to discern what she did wrong in hiding so much from you, but your heart begins to take responsibility for its own choices again. You no longer wonder what your life will look like now or where your life went, because it is not behind you. The dust has settled and the dirt is 6 hours south of where you are, but that's not your life anymore, even though there's a phantom sensation of it hovering over your skin, still, in every step you take. Your life is here. You live here, in this skin and in this city. And you have goals again. They are just yours.

You start to ask yourself what you want from that dead partnership, what lessons you can take with you. You want agency. You want to build things by yourself. You want your art back, your confidence, your sexuality and sensuality. You want to buy a bicycle because you did your own research and you want to ride it into the night, maintain it yourself, buy your own tools, fix your own shit. You want money that is yours and to get rid of the debt of her and all of those unused things and hobbies. You want to write every fucking day and use art as your way through. You want to live here, now, and let your own desire take you to the next place, and then the next. You want to teach and be creative and embrace your weirdness and never ever let someone back into your life that won't let you love them, that won't let you touch them, that blamed you for their own shortcomings and insecurities. You can see yourself in five years with a book published, another in the works, out of debt and teaching at some new school in a place you wanted to live, just outside a new, diverse city, with a little land, two dogs, some chickens. All you wanted and bought yourself. You can see the coop you built--it took a while and lots of trial and error, and it reminded you of all you used to lean on her for, but you did it--and you might have a goat if you have the time to milk it. Because fuck, you miss your goats. You may have a new love, maybe not. It doesn't matter. In this future, you have created the life you wanted because you wanted it, not because you felt incapable of doing anything alone, without her. You thank her every day in some quiet corner of your heart for all you learned with her, and all you learned after her. She didn't give you strength, she didn't ground you all those years, after all. Her release may have taught you how to find your own strength again but it has been inside you all along. A power that was not gone, like you thought, just dormant and dependent. Her absence and coldness at the end of you brought you back to the kindness you can only give yourself. You make art. You love music. You grow food and flowers and take walks with your dog every day and love your body. You sleep naked. It is good. 

 

When the dust is gone, you can see yourself clearly again. You know you are moving on.