Month: November 2013

And On The Thirtieth Day…

Well, folks, I did it.

As soon as I hit publish on this post, I will have officially blogged every day of November. And that’s pretty high on my list of things I never thought were possible.

I would like to thank the community at yeah, write! especially my wonderful rowmies Susannah, E., Michelle, and Sam. I was a terrible rowmie caught up in my own little world, but even though I didn’t comment on your posts, I always, always read them, and they were wonderful. I’d also like to thank team Nano Poblano, with a special shoutout to Rarasaur for organizing a fabulous group effort. It was amazing how many Poblanos got freshly pressed this month, and it just goes to show that writing every day really does improve your craft.

Honestly, I’m glad this month is over. Blogging every day was fun, but it may or may not have contributed to a few slight dips in my GPA. Or maybe more than a few. Also, I felt like a lot of the stuff I published this month was of lower quality than I’m used to publishing, which is kind of hard to stomach for a perfectionist. I think I like writing better pieces less often. But you know what? I’m glad I participated in my first NaBloPoMo. And even though it killed me…I might even do it again.

Now, if you all will excuse me, I’m going back to a ridiculous photoshoot with my four-year-old cousin. Because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Photo on 11-30-13 at 3.52 PM #2

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Two Heartbeats

“Maybe it’s nothing,” I say as I stare at the gray wall in front of me.

“Maybe it is.”

I gently trace my fingers over his knuckles and give his hand a protective squeeze. “It’ll be okay, you know. I’m here. We’ll be okay.”

He awkwardly shifts his weight to his other leg and jams his hands in his pocket. “Yeah.”

We are enveloped by sounds. A gentle humming seems to emanate from the flickering overhead light while the constant pitter-patter of human steps reverberates through the floor under our feet. Every few minutes a telephone rings, interrupted soon after by gruff mutterings rendered unintelligible by the general chaos in the air. I notice a low rhythmic pounding and realize rather uneasily that I am noticing the sound of my own heart. Or maybe his. Or both.

Sometimes, in the moments right before sleep overtakes us, I wait for our heartbeats to converge. Resting my cheek on the cavity of his chest, I let the thumping echo through my body until every nerve ending signals my own system to follow. For a few moments, the blood pumping through his veins flows through mine, too. We are linked by something so simple, so primal, that no power in the universe can tear us apart.

The first time he ever slept in my bed, he passed out while laying on my left arm, and I woke up with the horrifying sensation that I’d lost a limb. When I woke him up (begrudgingly) to ask him if he could please move, he laughed, this deep, rich, beautiful laugh, a laugh I fell in love with over and over and over again. He kissed the fingers of my limp, dead hand and held it tightly. “When you start to feel again, I want the first thing you feel to be me.” And it was, oh, it was.

I hear his name and snap to attention. Someone walks by with a manila folder, deeply absorbed in its contents. Someone bumps into someone else and spills her coffee, resulting in a myriad of hasty apologies and a promise of penitence. Someone stands in front of us, frowning, one thumb resting nonchalantly under the loop of his suspenders. It is he who speaks, tersely and emotionlessly, those precious few words that bring us closer and closer to the moment of truth.

“We will see you now,” he says with finality.

The one person I am sure I love walks away from me. I wait for him to turn around and look into my eyes and tell me not to be scared, to take my hand and let his pulse surge through me so I can believe that everything will be okay. But he doesn’t. The sound of his footsteps fades slowly with the distance, echoing less and less through the darkened hallway, and I am struck once more with that same startling and horrifying sense of loss.

I want to tell him that when this nightmare is over, when he finally starts to feel again, the first thing he feels will be me. Until then, I won’t let go.

Thanks for the Memories

This Thanksgiving, I am surrounded by family – doting grandparents, fabulous aunt and uncle, adorable tiny cousins. Sure, I’m sad that I’m not with my parents or my brother this year, but if I had to be stuck anywhere else, I’m glad it’s here.

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Oh, and you know who ISN’T at the Thanksgiving table this year?

My eating disorder.

Feels pretty damn amazing.

Reading Is Different Now

I love a lot of the books I read for my classes. I really do. The Sound and the Fury and The Sun Also Rises and Dracula and The Brothers Karamazov…I mean, I’m lucky that I can at least sort of understand such complicated and important literature, you know? I’m confused a lot, but I always end up taking at least something from each book. Learning history, understanding society. I like feeling intelligent when I read; I like that it’s sometimes a challenge.

But sometimes, I miss the simplicity of reading. I miss the honesty. I miss being able to relate to the characters, to look for pieces of myself in them. Those books that I read through my childhood, the ones with no “literary merit” whatsoever, those are the books closest to my heart. Sometimes, before I go to bed, even if it’s late, I take one of them off the shelf, open the crinkled, worn out spine, and start to read.

Sara Nickerson’s How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found is one of my favorite books on the planet, and it’s about a twelve-year-old. The book doesn’t criticize society or have some important philosophical message behind it; there isn’t any symbolism or really any rhetorical devices at all. It’s just a twelve-year-old girl, on a quest to discover the truth about the death of her father and her complicated family history. She doesn’t fall in love, although she does realize the enormity of possibility. The writing is simple but clever, and the story is sad but hopeful. I remember being twelve, all that horrible confusion, and reading this book is kind of a moment of clarity, a tribute to the past.

This is the kind of thing I feel like the big-time classics I’m reading now don’t offer me. I’m not transplanted there anymore, I don’t begin to feel as the characters do. Opening a book is like trying to understand a foreign language instead of meeting a new friend. It’s different now, I’m older, I should be able to handle more. But I still hold onto those midnight readings of children’s books, waiting for the day I’ll find the same truths in something else.

I Remember

When I was three or four years old, we moved from a little ranch on a crowded street to a house that had three stories and a two-car garage. Not surprisingly, I don’t remember much about the move. Sometimes I have a fragment of a memory – a quick image of the view from the top of the stairs, the feeling of the carpet underneath my feet – but before they can come together into something whole, I lose the picture. My first two houses are buried somewhere in my memory, overshadowed by my vivid recollections of the past thirteen or so years.

One day when I was walking with my mother, I had one of those flashes. I remembered a girl, a little younger than me, with curly hair and a big smile. I remembered her name for just a second, not long enough to speak it aloud.

“Hey, Mom, do you remember that girl I used to play with when we lived on Churchhill?” I asked as we moseyed along the sidewalk. “Curly hair…I think she had a baby sister, maybe?”

“Hillary,” she responded. “She came to your birthday tea party.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I said, searching my memory for more information about her. Maybe my mom had given me some retrieval cues. I had a vague, blurry picture of that birthday party in my mind, a bunch of four-year-old girls in poofy dresses drinking water out of tiny little teacups. Sure enough, more information surfaced. “Her sister was sick?” I added tentatively. “Right?”

“Yep,” Mom answered.

“Whatever happened to her?”

She didn’t look at me. “Oh. She died.”

The words jarred me. I combed through every memory I had in my head, trying to find some remnant of the tiny human to associate with this tragedy, but I came up empty. Maybe I’d never seen her. Maybe I’d forgotten her. All I could find to represent her was this blurry, probably inaccurate picture of her four-year-old sister. My heart ached at the thought of little Hillary, who met and lost her baby sister in less than the length of her own short lifetime.

I thought of my brother, who had been almost a baby himself when we lived in that house. The monster who used to drive me crazy, who once drew blood because he bit me in the back. The boy that grew up to become my best friend.

Life is brief. No one stays around forever. But I thank God for giving me the gift of watching my little brother grow up. Through his awkward phase, through his annoying phase, through his morose stage – even at the worst, he was there. I never had to face anything alone. And every time I think of him, I remember them. Claire, the one who never got to steal her sister’s toys or become her best friend. And Hillary, the one who never got to experience the joy and laughter and madness of being a big sister. At least not to her.

I bet not a lot of people remember her. I do.

Do You Trust Me?

Aladdin asked the question as he beckoned Jasmine onto the magic carpet. Jack asked the same of Rose right as she was about to jump.

“Do you trust me?”

Four words. Probably the most difficult question four words can create.

You asked me once with your hands behind your back, and I said yes with my fingers crossed. Neither of us really knew how to trust at all.

And now we’re here with a lifetime of what-ifs and should-haves and whys, but I trusted you in all the ways I could. You wanted more than I had. You didn’t mean what you said when you said you could save me.

Someone asked me again today. “Don’t you trust me?” they joked as I tactfully criticized their argument.

I don’t trust you anymore. I don’t believe you.

“Sure I trust you,” I reply with a smile. “Of course I trust you.”

I used to believe you. You broke everything I am into a million tiny jagged pieces.

“I would never lie to you.”

You broke me and you swept me up and you tossed all my fragments into the garbage can. You never thought about me again. How dare you ask me to trust you.

It’s not you asking anymore, but it is. Because since you, the answer can never be yes.

I’m Good At Being Afraid

There are butterflies in my stomach, but not the nice kind; they seem to be trying desperately to escape at the expense of my internal organs. I can’t keep food down, can barely swallow. My heart runs a marathon through my chest, the echo of its thick, rapid beats reverberating through my veins. The constriction of my chest muscles freezes my body in its tracks; I hyperventilate. My brain jolts, sizzles, runs haywire like a fuse that is about to explode; my vision blurs and my entire frame trembles. I have already lost control. I cannot hear you talking to me; you cannot help. The only thing you can do is sit with me until this stops, until I can focus again.

Fear. It’s a word I’ve been hearing for a long time, from the first day I went to the doctor and told them I couldn’t breathe. The doctor looked at my mother and said, “Your daughter may have an anxiety disorder.”

What does that mean to an eleven-year-old? It meant that sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I was too afraid that my heart would stop beating in the middle of the night, and that when I saw a piece of glass on the road I was terrified that I would swallow it. Irrational, unexplainable fears. It was as the doctor described: I had a keen awareness and anticipation of danger that caused me frequent panic attacks as a result of seemingly insignificant triggers. Some spells were worse than others, but I was always able to handle it on my own. As early as the fifth grade, I knew how to get through an anxiety attack in school without the teacher ever noticing. By seventh grade, although I was not able to eat more than a few bites of any meal for over three months, I seemed like an expertly adjusted individual. And at the end of sophomore year of high school, I taught myself how to do things as complicated as math problems in the midst of a full-blown panic.

I’m used to fear. Even when I go months without the irrationality and terror of the true disorder, I still get scared. I’m afraid of being in front of people and saying the wrong thing and dealing with my emotions. I’m terrified of how people perceive me and how I perceive myself. And every day, I turn down the things that I really want because I’m too frightened to face the unknown. Sometimes those facts discourage me, but mostly I just know I have some more growing to do. Maybe it’s true that I have a pretty long-term anxiety disorder, and right now I might let fear rule a lot of things. But I have already conquered so much of it on my own. I am capable of so much more.

The Curse of Indecision

​I stand in front of the white wooden wall and stare. It is the most daunting piece of crudely painted lumber I have ever seen, overwhelming me with its peeling text and childish, hand-drawn pictures. There are words misspelled and letters missing; only the discolored sketches seem to be totally intact. Squinting, I read each line carefully, as if in preparation for a test of my knowledge. I compare words with their matching drawings. I take one minuscule step forward, just a tad closer, and then with a rush of panic I hear the dreaded words: “Can I help you?”

​On-the-spot decision-making has never been my strongest suit. In fact, my uncanny lack of decisiveness makes enemies of every ice cream scooper I encounter, as well as waitresses, aggressive drivers, people standing behind me in line, and at times even my own mother. I feel the need to overanalyze every situation, create extended pro-con lists, mull over every option for longer than 24 hours, and ask for recommendations and opinions before I decide on things as simple as which flavor of ice cream to get or what to eat for dinner. Spontaneity makes me nervous; impulses are terrifying and irrational. In my mind, choices should be made through the employment of logic and reason, considering and weighing each possible outcome. Choosing involves much more than just what I “feel like”; it involves “should” and requires an answer to “why.”

​I cannot believe that my extensive decision-making process is entirely my fault, however. I remember family road trips as early as the age of six being unbearable because none of us ever wanted to choose where to stop for dinner. When we planned a “family fun day,” no one ever picked a destination. At a restaurant we would force a waiter to take at least three trips to collect all of our complete orders. From the time my brother and I were toddlers, my parents tried to instill in us the decisiveness they lacked, but we were hopeless. The four of us always employ three words when asked our opinions, and those words are “I don’t care.”

​I stand back from the wall for a moment and let the words surround me, swirling a current of choices around my brain. I feel a tightening in my chest, my pulse quickening with tension. My breath catches as the impatient question comes again. “I said, can I help you?” Her fingers are tapping a drumbeat on the sticky counter, matching the thumping of my heart. I have fewer than five seconds to make my choice. The rhythm of the clicking and the drumming and the pounding clouds my senses.

​“You’ve been in line for, like, ten minutes,” the girl says with contempt. “Can I help who’s next?”

​I am shoved off to the side by a crabby man’s elbow, the jolt to my ribs shifting my thoughts away from my dilemma. All these people have been standing in line for just as long as I have, and they seem to have all made a decision. The wide-eyed woman with the toddler clutching her leg is placing a long and difficult order; the sweaty boys’ soccer team is in the process of tackling triple scoop sundaes. It is my last chance to make this choice today, but the decision will be a trivial one. What flavor I decide on won’t matterin the long run, not tomorrow or tonight or even an hour from now. So why can’t I do it?

​I finally step up to the counter, shaking but confident. It’s time to choose something just because I want to. I haven’t weighed every option or asked for every opinion. But for the first time, I’ve listened to my heart. I take a deep breath. “Peanut butter cup sounds good.”

Sometimes You Learn

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Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. You wake up to an email telling you that you’re finally employed. You dance around your room without your glasses on, only to trip over your nightstand and fall face-first into the radiator. Sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. A boy with an adorable smile tells you that your imperfections make you beautiful. For once, you can see yourself through someone else’s eyes; the fierce loyalty, the shy crooked smile, the eyes that draw the world in like a whirlpool. You fall in love with what he sees, but he doesn’t. It was never meant to last longer than a moment. Sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes the words flow easily, like Ernest Hemingway meets Niagara Falls. Everything comes together perfectly, a flawless concoction of letters and words and phrases and sentences that steams with meaning and glows with passion. Sometimes they’re lost in your head, swirling through the pathways of your brain, unwilling to fall out the way you’d like, leaving you tired and angry and meek. Sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. You look around at your messy living room and your mismatched throw pillows and you think, “this is mine.” You never thought you could make it on your own, not after everything you’ve been through, but here you are. It could use a good vacuuming; you should run the dishwasher. But you’re here, your feet resting casually on the coffee table, cheap Christmas lights twinkling in the windows, typing words that a thousand people will read. You are everything you never thought was possible. Sometimes you learn.

I’d Like To Thank The Academy

In the past two days, I’ve been blessed enough to be nominated for not ONE, but TWO blogging awards.

First, E. from A Sign of Life graciously recognized me for the Sunshine Award, calling my blog “delightfully real.” To that, dear E., I say that you, too, have an incredibly down-to-earth way with words and I enjoy every story of yours I get to read.

Then, Michelle from Scattered Wrecks nominated me for the Liebster Award, stating that I was “womanly wise beyond [my] young years and going to do amazing things one day.” Well, Michelle, you are already doing amazing things with your writing and your beautiful family, and it is a pleasure to be on the journey with you.

Now, bear with me as I answer these lovely ladies’ sets of questions.

E.’s Questions:

  1. Are you the best chef ever, or do your dinners come in a box? I am the best chef ever. Not really. These are two extremes, and neither is really true for me. But I do love putting strange ingredients together to see if I can make something delicious with it – I despise recipes; they hinder my creative process. 🙂
  2. What is something you always wanted to do? Why haven’t you done it? I’ve always wanted to write a book, I just haven’t had the time to prioritize that yet. Right now, I’m kind of concentrating on getting through college without losing my mind.
  3. If you could learn any instrument in the world, what would it be and why? Laugh at me all you want, but I think it would be SO COOL to play the tuba. I’d be that badass little girl with the giant brass instrument. Everyone would want to be my friend.
  4. Do you have any siblings? If so, how many? Do you get along with them? I have a younger brother who just turned 19. He is my best friend in the entire world, and I love him to pieces. We don’t always get along, though. As siblings are wont to do, we tend to drive each other bananas.
  5. Tell me about your pets. (If you don’t have any, tell me about a pet you always wanted.) One time, I had a betta fish named Lucy. I tried to take her to summer camp with me and the rough mountain climate killed her. I’ve never been the same.
  6. Do you prefer warm climates, or does the bite of winter appeal to you? I don’t really know. I like seasons – I never want to live somewhere that doesn’t have four distinct seasons. But spending my collegiate years in Chicago has made me hate the winter windchill. I think I prefer slightly milder winters.
  7. What is your favorite number? Does it have a story behind it? It’s a tie between 3 and 7. There’s no story or reason, I’ve just always been drawn to those numbers.
  8. Name a character (from a movie, tv show, book, comic book, etc) that you love to hate. It’s a tie between Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones (books or TV show) and River Tam in Firefly. People get mad at me for hating River, but she’s such an obnoxious character and she has this nasty habit of ruining everybody’s plans.
  9. There’s a masked vigilante in town! Does he need to be brought before the law, or should he be allowed to continue cleaning up the streets? I say let him do his thing. Especially if he’s as attractive as Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent.
  10. If you write fiction or poetry, is there a frequently recurring theme in your works (e.g. the ocean, romance, justice, etc)? If you don’t, is there a theme that seems to follow you through life? I don’t often write fiction or poetry these days, but I think if I did, there’d be a lot of coming-of-age symbolism. That’s just where I am in my life right now.
  11. Do you like scary stories? I like to be able to sleep at night, thank you very much. So no.

Michelle’s Movie Free-Association:

  1. Drama: Titanic
  2. Comedy: Wedding Crashers
  3. Romantic Comedy: The Proposal
  4. Romantic Drama: Cruel Intentions [oh God I’m sounding like a preteen right now]
  5. Epic: Harry Potter. All of them.
  6. Animated: Up
  7. Biopic: Finding Neverland
  8. Historical: Lincoln
  9. Sci-Fi: Serenity
  10. Foreign: Amelie
  11. Mystery: Memento [does that count?]

Now, here are 11 facts about me, in case you haven’t learned enough already.

  1. I can solve a Rubik’s cube in less than a minute.
  2. The only food I buy organic is apples, and I have no real explanation as to why that is.
  3. I have seven piercings and two tattoos and I do not regret a single one of them.
  4. My parents are both 6’2″ and my younger brother is 6’7″. I, however, am only 5’9″, and none of them will ever let me forget it.
  5. Someday, the Doctor will choose an American companion, and it will be me. Sorry, fellow Whovians.
  6. I am deathly afraid of deep water.
  7. However, I am also a certified lifeguard and swim instructor.
  8. I have really, really, really terrible eyesight. My prescription is -6.00 in both eyes, which basically means that without my glasses the world is just a blurry colorful blob.
  9. I don’t understand the point of iPads. If anyone has one and would like to share with me why it’s useful, I’m all ears.
  10. I eat avocados like it’s my job. Seriously. I eat at least half of an avocado every day.
  11. I get horrible anxiety when I have to talk on the phone. I would rather face a panel of judges than have to call one person.

And now, without further ado, my nominees! There are supposed to be eleven in each category, but I’ve never been one to play by the rules.

Sunshine:

  1. Megan at The War in My Brain, who shares poignant, real, and funny moments in her struggle with OCD.
  2. Mackenzie at girl dans la cité, whose blog is funny, smart, and also delicious.
  3. Aussa at Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy. Every time I stop by her blog I end up laughing so hard I pee my pants. Thanks, Aussa.
  4. Beth at Writer B is Me – hilarious, kind, supportive, insightful, funny…need I go on? Beth is kind of the best.
  5. Susannah Ailene Martin, young writer extraordinaire.
  6. Natalie at The Cat Lady Sings, whose writing sometimes makes me cry because it’s so beautiful.
  7. Jake at Jake vs. The City, who writes funny and relatable posts about a life I wish I had.
  8. Andrew at A Blumes With a View, another one with a comedic gift.
  9. CB at Combat Babe, who is wonderfully real and uncensored.

Liebster:

  1. Aiming for Simplicity
  2. Shree at The Heartsongs Blog
  3. Tripping Through My Twenty-Somethings
  4. C.C. at Conscious Cacophony
  5. Tess at Get A Real Life
  6. florcafe
  7. Madeleine at Matilda, All Grown Up
  8. Anne at BOOKS BAKING AND BLOGGING
  9. Michelle at aghostdancer

Participation in this is totally, 100% optional. If you don’t want to play, don’t. I will still love all of you and read your blogs religiously. But if you do, the rules are: include the award photo in your post, answer the eleven questions I ask you, share eleven other facts about yourself, nominate eleven bloggers for the award, and give them eleven questions to answer. Rinse and repeat.

Your questions:

  1. If you could insert yourself (as yourself) into any literary world of your choosing, what would it be?
  2. Coffee or tea?
  3. What is the WORST piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
  4. Crumple or fold?
  5. If we were to go on a date (hypothetically), where would you take me and why?
  6. If you could go back in time ten years and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
  7. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  8. What kind of toothpaste do you use?
  9. Above all else, what are you afraid of?
  10. So far, what has been your favorite age to be and why?
  11. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Thanks for sticking with me, y’all! Congratulations and love to all my talented nominees.