Strangers and Ever Changing Lives

Last night I was exhausted. The emotional upheaval from the start of the week resulted in some serious anxiety and a few nights with minimal sleep. I kept good face during work, but by the time I climbed the stairs to my apartment and tossed my things on the love seat in the kitchen, I was ready to make a b-line to bed. Clothes on and all, I was so over it.

Instead I opened up my laptop and browsed through a few impending emails, all responses to an essay I wrote on surviving the anniversary the passing of my mother. While I survived physically, mentally was another story. I lashed out on friends and medicated with alcohol, something I swore I would never do again given that it NEVER works. I grew bitter over the lack of help being offered without really asking it,  and didn’t express gratitude to the people that offered it. Needless to say, I felt like a total Grendel. 

While my essay dictates that it’s OK to have those feelings, maybe I didn’t act in the best way accordingly. Then there are the emails that took over a day for me to answer.

Given the nature of Thought Catalog, they all game from people around my age, all of which lost a parent, ranging from 10 to 2 years prior. All said more or the same thing.

“Thank you. Thank you for making me feel less alone in this.”

I’m not sure what the reader-writer relationship is supposed to be like yet. I reckon that it has a lot to do with what you write about though I know I was completely and stupidly star struck when I met Buddy Wakefield last year.

“Your poem changed my life!” I said excitedly. Did he not know how big of a deal this was for me? Bluntly speaking, I’m a product of a shit childhood and nothing can really excite me without that devil voice in the back of my mind asking me, “Aren’t you supposed to be jaded by now?”

Prior to reading Nerdua, and Wakiefield, and Kay, and Lahiri, I for sure thought I was an island. 

“You love for my work changes mine every day!” he replied.

I didn’t get it until people started responding to my writing a year later. At first I felt like I didn’t deserve it, as stated in the last post.

“I’m human” I thought, ” I don’t have all the answers. Truth be told, when I think of you the question gets a footnote and I’m completely lost again. Don’t these people know that. I’m not perfect. I’m just some little girl behind a keyboard.”

But maybe that’s what the reader needs. Maybe the reader needs to know that books and poems and essays aren’t created by some content producing Twitter machine. In the same way when we dial customer service we want to speak to an actual person, maybe the reader wants to sit down with a piece of writing and feel like they’re listening to an actual human being, a person who thinks, feels, looses, wins, hurts and heals just like they do.

What connects us is our ability to feel, and that’s why emotions, though scary, are incredibly important. 

So as tired as I was, I responded to the emails. I tailored each response to the original. I don’t know much about these people except that we have the same unfortunate thing that links us and we’re still battling with how to feel about it. I thanked them for taking the time to read my piece and said that I was happy it helped them.

What I really wanted to say, given the nature of the week, was thank you.  Thank you for reminding me why I write and for being the reason I keep writing. Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to tell a stranger the secret of how you feel about something. It isn’t easy, admitting you have emotions and often times it makes you very uncomfortable.

When I am tired in every way and feel like I have nothing left to give anyone, thank you for being that little extra bit of compassion I can scrape from the bottom of my heart and give to you. When you give love, you get it back, even if comes back in the frail form of a sound sleep and energy to push on the next day.

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Because There’s Gotta Be a More Productive Way to Spend a Sunday..

..Other than making goofy faces at my cat.

I’m just going to flat out say this- The 2nd anniversary of my mom’s death is Tuesday and I’ve been trying to write something beautiful but can’t.

I’m totally stumped. Of all the moments where I should have something to say, I have nothing. I wan’t it to be epic and poetic, something worth the past two years of crazy. Am I making too much of this? (I ask myself that a lot.) Probably.

In fact, I am certain of it. It’s not like she’s around to see the fail that is the 4 or so word docs about her.

But what do you want me to say about you, Mom? You were lucid and colorful. You were kind and rambunctious. I miss you every day and I hate that you chose not to treat your cancer because you didn’t make it long enough to really have a reason to be proud of me. Look at all you could have been around for. Look at all you could have seen.

Let’s Date Ourselves

Meghan sat down on the couch bed in my kitchen and took a sip of her water.

“I’ve decided to date myself.”

This is hardly an exciting concept, except when you take into consideration that often times, we treat lovers kinder than we treat ourselves.

Truth is, Meghan and I have seen it all- the casual hookups to the long term relationships, the false starts to the “ones that got away.” We are 26 and jaded. Society is still telling us we should be locked in with our future spouses, even though we are not ones for white picket fences.

“No one knows really how to love anymore. Least not to me. I don’t want want to be that way.”

Self preservation at its finest.

I tell you readers, I’m damn close to believing men don’t have feelings. How absurd is that?

So we date ourselves.

We’ll take baths instead of showers, go to sleep a half hour early so we can slowly enjoy our mornings. We will sped the extra 5 dollars for self indulgence even on weeks we can’t afford it.

We will cut out as much as we can of that of which does not bring us joy- people, places, things.

Pick up the bottle only among friends.

Our wellness is our number one priority and we are dedicated to treating ourselves wonderfully.

On Becoming the Place

I’m scaling the Adirondacks during a snow storm going 35 miles an hour in a rented sedan in between home and the place I grew up when I realize that home is no longer the place I grew up- it’s a 2 bedroom apartment in Humboldt Park, Chicago. My knuckles are white from holding on to the steering wheel so hard. I’m tired, calling in a few favors thanks less to belief and more to a Catholic upbringing.

“Just get me back to Boston safely.” I ask the universe. Touching my deceased mother’s necklace around my neck, I ask again.

The only person that can get me off this fucking mountain is me, and I’m crawling.

4 hours later, I’m back in Boston and it’s not nearly as comforting as I remember it to be.

****
There’s this part of 93 that rises above the rest of the highway, giving you this perfect view of Boston right before you head into a tunnel. It is one of my first visits  of my first trip home.  This view used to conjure so many emotions but for some strange reason, I feet nothing. I take a deep breath heading into the horizon, keeping my eyes on the road as I sink below the city. When I come back through the tunnel I will feel overwhelmed with a toxic combination of everything is as I left it, and not.  I will feel the urge to keep driving. I called my roommate telling her I wanted to go back to Chicago, not because I was unhappy, but because my safe place no longer existed.

“Well, Sweetheart,” she said, “the other day it wasn’t here. Where is the safe place, then?”

What is the safe place? Is it the ocean? Your favorite coffee shop? Is it your old bedroom that is now an office at your dad’s house? Is it a friends voice, or the familiarity of a city?

I didn’t know. I did know that driving on 93 south out of Boston I felt very unsafe. Alone in the rental car, on streets and roads I can accurately trace in my dreams I felt so exposed in anxious. Could anyone see the girl in this little white Chevy, regurgitating herself from the inside out.

It’s been a common feeling lately-a state on inundation caused by everything evolving and be being aware of it all. I reckon that meant progress was being made, but did it have to be so uncomfortable? Did I have to feel like an alien in my dad’s house or awkward when I hug a life long friend after not seeing them for months?

Is there not a place on this planet where I can go just be? If Chicago is just as uneasy as Boston, where do I belong then?

****

Hull Gut is a stretch of water in between the tip of Hull, Massachusetts and Peddock’s Island. I would drive to this spot from the moment I could, just to be surrounded by ocean. I’m here this time to scatter half of what I have of my mom’s remaining ashes. A close friend of mine suggested it.

“It’ll be a good time to let things go.” She said.

The wind kicked back as I opened the bag, but I was able to get about half to where the wake touched the rocks. I saw the khaki gray that was once my mother get taken into the water. I stayed until the last bit of dust had vanished.

I felt untied. While I still felt connected to her love, I no longer felt connected to HER. She was gone. Keeping the little bag of ashes meant nothing.

But something else did. Walking back to the car, I realized that I had the ashes for so long because I gave them meaning. Having them meant I still had my mom, even though I had her in other ways, like her necklace I keep or the endless advice I reference daily. I also realized something bigger. I used to think that comfort came from an outside source, that I would have to go to it- search for it high and low, desperately needing something else to feel secure. The thing is, I felt it before, but there wasn’t a go-to for all stages of my life. It changed along with me.

Pulling away from Hull Gut, still one of my favorite places, I discovered if that feeling of comfort and wholeness wasn’t a specific location, maybe it was everywhere. Maybe it traveled with me, as me, and all I had to do to access it was to be unapologetically myself.

I have become the ocean. I have become my dad’s forehead kiss and my mom’s fingers through my hair. I am a medium iced hazelnut coffee extra soy milk extra sugar. I’m Neruda and my electric blankets. I am Boston and Chicago and any place I chose to be. I am a strong as my knuckles on the wheel of a car that doesn’t belong to me and I am strong because I am as vulnerable as the bottle I put down when I was upset over my best friend dying.

I have become the place. I have always been the place.