Monday, October 16, 2017

What people do when they're lonely

It's like some kind of syrup, what we have in our loneliness. Our human sap. 
Not the tree kind, which is arguably tasty when processed properly; it takes some time and work and a little somethin' somethin' (sugar, duh), to get that sap to be sweet... but we aren't talking about pancakes here, we are talking about being quiet and alone and lonely in the quiet of ourselves. That is where the sap of us sits. 

All the thoughts that make silence so hard when lonely and alone, they repeat themselves so we repeat distraction on ourselves; our consciousness. But the voice we run from would better be cultivated if it were embraced and heard. Those silent, quiet, sticky fears tuck in corners and fill up voids, waiting to expand and consume our identity. Our sappy syrupy goodness. 

To embrace the fear is to know one's self. To conquer.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boil, simmer, salt, pour. Slice, sizzle, burn, combine. PASTA!

I think most kids dream about what they will be when they are grown.
A fireman; a cook; a tree; whatever sounds good. Simple or extravagant, we all played pretend. Oddly, I never played pretend with my dreams; never imagined I was in China or held any expectation for what it would be like. I just knew I wanted to go. When my best friend and her sister wanted to play pretend with me, we were pretend teachers. I was sure this was not what I wanted to do when I grew up, so when we got done with our pretend class and our pretend grading, we would go to the pretend bar for a post work pretend drink (shh, don't ever tell our parents). Naturally, I was the one who grumbled about the days work (the imaginary life was hard on a working girl).

Now I've lived out that dream though. I went to China, and of course I did the one thing I thought I'd never do: I taught. Your first day in the classroom is the worst. I taught 4 classes, each 15 minutes apart and each with different age groups and varrying in size. As I fumbled through trying to control the classroom (I mean "manage," of course),  I remember one distinct thought: Dear God. I'm fucked. I truly believed I was not cut out for teaching. But who would really feel good after being bitten and kicked, asking everyone to sit down and then realizing that they did not understand what you were telling them, nor did they care? Looking back I can think of a thousand things I could have done differently that first day of class, but only because I marched through day after day of being slaughtered by a group of 10 year-olds, did I figure any of it out. Marching through, this is the vital life lesson (yes, spoiler at the very beginning of the post, shame on me).

There were distinct phases that occurred after returning to America.

At first, physical recovery.  It took some 8 months in order to regain enough strength to rejoin the world of the working class (is this phrase too outdated to apply?)-- although many aspects of that illness still guard the option of "good" health, even years later. My thoughts at that point fumbled over the questions, what now? It nagged at me.  I built my entire life around an idea, and while I could say that I did accomplish some part of that idea, I did not execute the plan as expected; I had no intention of ever returning to America, yet there I was, home and sick (not to be confused with homesick).

So, after returning to the US and after spending months being mentally incoherent and physically deteriorated, some physical recovery set in.  I am finally out of the "DANGER ZONE" and well enough to start thinking about the future. But... what now?

Chronic illness doesn't dissipate with time. There is no cold medicine to bring your body back to the natural state it was in before you became ill (before the illness actually manifested, in some cases). I think this reality kind of lends to a negative state of mind surrounding chronic illness, and not just for those of us who have it, but also for those watching-- there is a label, a permanence, and a disconnect. Between our old self and our new, between our old relationships with our friends and the current manner in which we want to connect, the list goes on.

I tried to find some way to accept and rationalize my situation; I needed mental recovery, which was the next phase.  Close friends told me to keep dreaming, and not to give up. They were right. But the dreams that form when you have partial mental awareness and a level of strength that is significantly depleted as compared to your pre-sick-self, feel like pipe dreams; frantic grabs at normalcy. If I dont die, I'll go back to college. If I dont die, I'll be content with any life, a simple life, with living. Basic but fair.

When I began to recover, I found that everything I thought I knew had been wiped out. My entire life of experiences, blank. This is because everything I knew was based on a level of understanding very much tied to my physical ability. Something I completely took for granted, which I truly believe a lot of people do. But this is where that disconnect really causes a rift between you and those around you, and between you and yourself.

I spent a considerable amount of time grasping at past memories as if they could somehow define my current self. Maybe I can reconstruct my existence and then just pick up where I left off. But obviously, I could not. My body required pampering, constant rest, several-times-a-day-medicine. Nothing was familiar.

To further make things confusing (perhaps from my own panic-driven ignorance), I didn't seem to know myself, as though I had some kind of amnesia. Do I enjoy the taste of broccoli? What is my favorite color? What kind of music do I enjoy? I couldn't answer these questions, and was confused by the absence their answers. My memories faded into a hazy fog, my dreams choked me out, and even though I could think somewhat clearly (comparatively), I couldn't see for shit.

Now, I find myself wrapped in this reconstruction phase, which is probably a known state of humanity-- that we rebuild as long as there is life to rebuild with. Simultaneously, my consciousness, the present life that many have helped me to rebuild and that I continue to work on, doesn't seem to be aware that there are missing pieces of identity that lost their way back to American when I boarded that airplane in Dongguan. Movies I loved before ( I must have, I own them and watched them on repeat), I can't stand now. The constant desire to be with people swapped out with a more introverted thirst for silence. My current favorite is the sound of a ceiling fan, which must be the purest kind of silence-- you can only hear it in the thickest of quiet.

Recently deeper pieces, ones that all of me had forgotten, sneak back... sneaky little mother-fucking ninjas.

Standing (or laying down, if you know me better) in a life I have (again, received lots of help with) rebuilt, a life I love, pieces of my lost self seem to be several years late in their return to me (no doubt lost at baggage claim, but that is what they get for missing the flight).  And don't misunderstand, they aren't back on the shelf, sorted into their appropriate mental and physical bins. They are laying around on the floor of my apartment, unexpected. Yes, I trip on them. Walking from one room to the other, they lie in wait, to put me in my place; OUCH! where the ef did you come from and what ar... oh.. oh yeah.. You can go over here, thanks for bruising my knees. These puzzle piece, chunks of consciousness, bits of identity, roll in like they own me and wreck my autopilot with conflicting messages. They complicate the present, the idea of knowing oneself, and they make cooking really difficult.

Not a lot of this makes sense. But day by day I am going to march through, bruises and all, for the preferred outcome: a feeling of wholeness, despite the word "chronic" dangling over most of me; a feeling of connectivity, despite a rift that cognitively and physically inhibits socially perceived norms of friendship. I'm gonna win, even if it means a sweet little battle each day to get there.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cast Off Your Burdens

I'm thinking about that song by Five Iron Frenzy, "A New Hope." I wasn't at Columbine when the shooting happened, nor did I attend the school. However, the community of neighborhoods branching away from the school district were intertwined enough that everyone knew someone who had been at the school that day; someone who was trapped in the room with the gunmen, or someone who lost a friend. A teacher who knew a teacher, who couldn't recover. The impact of widespread fear and sadness over the crime (what other word do we have for these happenings?) that took place at Columbine was distinctive to me as a child. That's what I was, when it happened, a child. There was panic, and a sheer level of brokenness on the face of every adult I looked up at as we watched the news, spoke in the streets, attempted to regain a sense of security through community.  It was the first time I felt a sense of chaos-- unpredictability and an acute realization that nothing is sacred, and nothing is safe.

Don't worry, I'm not about to reinforce tragedy by making it the topic. It is merely the foundation of a train of . . .

The feeling isn't just mine, and I'm not the only person who has ever felt the shudder of confusion form into grief or outrage, depression, and then resilience. It reoccurs each time a sandcastle is wrecked with the tide, a roof leaks in a rainstorm, a car breaks down, a friend is lost, a negative word is spoken. We receive, perceive, internalize, deconstruct, and respond. There's a pattern; stages of grief, aren't enough though. They don't capture the full potential of our composition as we are rendered into the naturalistic existence and occurrence of life.

There's something else, something after, that we carry with us when we pass through an experience that riles and stirs our unprotected angles. In the absence of something, we feel attacked, we know we are attacked, we recognize a word I've heard as "weakness." I think this has been poorly defined to us. A mistake has been made in our use of language, or even our language itself. In the chaos we are not given to define where a strength has formed, not been told to look at what people can't see we took with us. The intangible result of tangible actions exists, though. If we are here we stand after, and we can choose to sharpen our sight with the hallmark of beauty left by what we loved.

Fear might have been someone's intent, but I am not content to walk away carrying that. I see everywhere muddled messages and a distracted body. A lens out of focus. But I want to be in focus, in this moment. I want to see those multi-faceted shades of meaning rendered to anyone's success story, to the perpetuity of something more than the darkness of myriad ill-famed tragedies. Just to observe one person's intangible boon in action, is a victory-- but why stop there?  Why not compile the wisdom of what is overcome, form the comfort we desire, to treasure what is sacred and safe to us in this moment?

And in this thought, my "weakness" becomes hope.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

...But I'm Not A Soldier

Sleepless night's know my absence when I leave a trail of blank pages and trackless steps. And I'd be inclined to say that a night of sleep is a good thing, except that so many of them consecutively choke the voice of the mind, which begs dreams for tangible wreckage. But I find myself conscious. What a strange thing, one form of darkness yielding to another-- and I've been waiting for you to awaken. Less than patiently. In that "other" form of darkness, I streamed constant words of an outside existence into you methodically, hoping that when you awoke, you'd be directed toward the bread crumbs, leading to the exact moment we parted ways. Somehow it seems to have worked. I remember what a smile looked like before it cracked, and what a heart whispered in between its beating, and the sound of inspiration when it hits raw matter. I have thoughts to spill everywhere, and time to spill them. I have struck oil, only the syrup rushing to the surface is not oil at all, it's hope. I have soul. And I may not be a soldier, but I'll put up the good fight.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Miniature Jurassic Park ?!

There's a rather large reptile sunning on the backyard deck. He's found a hot spot on the splintering wooden boards and appears to be bobbing his head to, "hear comes the sun," which is currently gagging its way out of my speakers. Pandora, I asked for Paul Simon, why did you give me the Beatles? But the reptile seems pleased with the music choice (thanks Pandora). His brown body is speckled and cracked, he looks like a miniature crocodile. Think 9 inches-- big for a lizard, small for a crocodile. He looks so pleased with himself, or maybe he is just mean-mugging the deer currently trying to consume his shady resting place.

In any case, I admire his approach to life. He has time, and with it he has made a conscious, choice to stand in the sun, warm himself, relax. I find that empty time on my hands is spent chasing after the next thing I should be doing or accomplishing. If we are lucky enough to allow a few minutes of unscheduled time for ourselves during the day, don't we usually try and fill it with something? Just so the silence of time doesn't allow our thoughts to surface too prominently. I know I do this.

A day of nothing planned, I've experienced so many of these this year. I did my best to appreciate them, and recognize that eventually my sojourn would be over, and it would be back to the fast lane; to work and bills and life. And now that I'm burgeoning back into normalcy (if there is such a thing), I am confused by empty time. All or nothing, in  my head. If I have a morning free, but an afternoon task, I find little and unimportant jobs to preoccupy my time until the afternoon.

I'd rather be like my lizard friend (I guess he likes Pink Floyd too) though, and appreciate what it is to do nothing. No TV, no cleaning or cooking or eating or drinking or sipping (for that matter)... just soaking in life. There is so much of it around us to be felt. My skin doesn't absorb and use sunlight the same way my new friend's does, but I can still appreciate the warmth, the silence, and the free time. Thanks little guy.

Monday, September 28, 2015


I'm watching the sun give way to a flickering of fireflies. They hover over the lawn, illuminating patches of faded grass-- the end of a season. Another ninety-degree day slips into a cool breeze and hails September weather. I'd wear a sweater, but I'm eager to embrace the chill forming on the back of my neck. Fall is birthing an irresistible heir-- new beginnings.  And I welcome her.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


It verges on murky this morning. I woke up to darkness and somehow found the sun. But even through its rise, the spread of color piercing the darkness, a listless grey hangs in the distance. I could turn and embrace its presence, as it almost looms behind me, but I'm drawn to brightness. My eye is captivated by a neon spread of pinks and orange, of burning white light that brings tears from glancing too long. Still, I know that shade of darkness, perhaps threatening rain, lurks like some unknown monster in the space out of the corner of my eye. I can't even look at it directly, more just feel it watching me, watch the sunrise. It plans to interfere, to comment on focused attention, and I plan to deny it. Even as it would eat every inch of color, every patch of white light,  I will ignore it.