I really have one resolution this year. It's different than before. Most of my resolutions tend to have to do with weight or writing. I'm really hung up on that W.
This year, I'm switching lower into the alphabet and going to Honesty.
I don't lie. I never have, really. White lies when I was younger and I always lie about being late but besides that I'm honest to a fault. EXCEPT when it comes to the things I don't say.
I don't say a lot because of how I will be perceived from the outside world. I am trying in some ways to build a brand. This means I'm often censoring myself in the real world and online. It is absolutely exhausting to be worried about something that does not even exist. A fake image. A cardboard cutout of who I want people to think I am.
I just don't care anymore.
Someone in my M.F.A. program stood up and said that you don't always feel good after you speak out but that doesn't mean you should stop. It's the same with therapy and working out, directly after you feel kind of like a chewed up piece of gum. Then, days and weeks later, the true physical and mental healing can begin. I'm going to be honest because I feel weighed down with all the heaviness life hurls at you. I'm going to be honest because I am sick and tired of caring what other people think about me.
I care. I do. But it doesn't matter. I know who I am and I cannot control what other people think about. I'll say it louder. I cannot control what you think about me. I can only be myself and hope that brings out good thoughts from you. Something I have realized in the past few years, is that other people's perceptions of my kindness, my problems, and my life is more of a commentary on them than me.
So let me list all the things I would like to talk about but don't:
1) Teaching - there are one million reasons I don't talk about teaching. It's painful to talk about a job where children are being so let down. I'm not sure if I'm somehow people will think that I'm taking advantage of my job as an educator. I am afraid to talk about race which is a big part of my job and something I would want to do eloquently because it's important and I think we live in a time where so many people are both willingly and unknowingly ignorant about race. I don't talk about teaching because there is an incredible amount to talk about.
2) My family - See last line above.
3) My boyfriend - He hates oversharing. Most likely because he is Irish and a ginger and hates a lot of things. Like people and cats. Kind of kidding about the people part. However, when he met me I was writing dating articles and was extremely honest about myself, so .. I guess you get what you pay for.
For my final project in my international writing class I wrote a very honest, almost brutally so, essay about my father. My boyfriend was aghast. "You can't turn that in. You practically accuse him of murder." I was nonchalant. I shrugged. "It's a story. I'm a story teller. It's what I do and besides, if he was here to defend himself, I would have written the same exact thing."
It's true. I would have.
I felt completely drained after I read that essay to my class because although honesty is empowering, it is dangerous. There is a definite advantage in keeping truths to yourself. That advantage is that nobody can hold them over you. Nobody can pretend that by having the private details of your life, they somehow have control. I have always been told, the more people know about you, the more they will try to use that against you.
I guess what I'm saying is "go ahead."
Use it against me.
I'm not perfect. Far from it. I forget to shave my legs a lot. Okay, that is a lie. This is about honesty. I do not forget to shave my legs. I purposefully postpone the process because It seems like a lot to have to do all that bending. I definitely don't arrive to the airport on time. The trash does not go out every week. I do a lot of things well and a lot of things not so well.
This year I vow that I'm going to be honest, even when it feels gross, even when I look fat, even when my boyfriend isn't the best boyfriend, and even when all the filters in the world don't fix those tiny little wrinkles that are being born into existence, marking the truth: my twenties are so nearly dead.
Honesty is important in this era of fake. Fake news. Fake people. Fake photos.
Cheers to 2019 and CHEERS to the truth,
I am looking for a good book!
A -- knock your sox off, cry your face off, and not be able to move because your teeth hurt from biting down -- kind of book.
I have a read a few of these lately:
Memoir: The Face: Cartography of the Void
I want more and this got me thinking about how I personally find my books and wondering how other people find their books:
My go to methods:
1) Goodreads ... Kind of. I feel like I'm to lazy for Good Reads. You have to do some work, like searching and mostly I just want someone to tell me what to read because I'm already researching for my novels, being a teacher and a writer, and I'm just tired... Okay? Don't judge.
2) Suggestions from friends: I'm always asking what people are reading. Mostly complete strangers who would rather be reading than suggesting to me what to read but I don't care ya'll. I'm trying to find a good book.
3) Class ... Being in grad school means that I get to read lots of wonderful stuff that I wouldn't normally read because of my teachers.
4) Netflix and Movies ... When a book gets made into a movie or tv show, I usually try to read it first.
5) Book Stores ... Perhaps I am ancient but I still like wandering around book stores, flipping to the back of books in attempts to find one that I will love. My mom and I often bring ten back to the table and force ourselves to pick only 2 or 3. That is always impossibly hard and we end up making each other pick every single time. This is my favorite way to find books.
I feel like there are other ways that I'm missing, maybe? So how do you find good books? Do you have a magic method I haven't mentioned?
I have fat on my abdomen.
Fleshy fat that is thick and hard to get rid of. I understand the daily struggle that obese individuals go through and I will not pretend to know how that feels. However, I can discuss the absolute disgust I feel when I stand naked and look into a mirror. Instead of celebrating my breasts or my freckles or my thighs, I just stare at the tube of fat that surrounds my middle.
I have tried dieting. I'm a pescetarian . I eat fairly well on a day to day basis. I don't eat fast food or drink soda. I do drink wine and eat tacos. I call that humaning and we all have to human, in moderation.
I exercise. Some weeks, I have a rhythm of consistency. Some weeks, I do ten sit ups after drinking two glasses of Malbec and call it a day. I mean, last week I barely made time to shave my legs, let alone spend five hours in work out classes. I love running. I love being healthy and I know how to make it a priority. YOU will never get the last thing on your to-do list done. I know this and yet, today, I can't say to you that I'm on a regular workout schedule. That is the reality of my now.
SO, that is why this fat sticks to me. IT goes with me to the Sandlot where I bartend five nights a week. It comes with me to the coffee shops, where I write and plan for the school year. It accompanies as I meet the new teachers from my school, as I try to set them up for success for the school year.
My fat lives with me. It haunts me. It hugs me. My fat is a constant reminder of what I consider to be failures. What people want to hear is that attitude of love yourself no matter what. I do, I do love myself but at the same time, sometimes my stomach pushes against my fat and I have to run to the bathroom to cry because for so many years I have worked on losing weight.
I know I am strong. I know I am beautiful. I know I am a fucking bad ass.
I also know that sometimes I feel fat. I feel like an intruder is sitting on my body and taking up space is my clothes that I love.
Sometimes I squeeze my stomach between my fingers and question if it was worth it. The moments that made my stomach protrude outward and 90 percent of the time the answer is YES. The tacos were worth it. The wine was worth it. The humaning was worth it. However, I know that in the future to be truly happy, I have to do a little less humaning and a little more balancing.
Although I can plan to get rid of this literal weight, it is not gone at the moment.
It is a part of me and to love myself, I have to accept it. NOT love it because fat can be a sign that you are overdoing it in some ways. I.E. Wine and tacos.
Can we stop pretending that it's a horrible thing to feel bad about yourself? Sometimes, I feel like the most disgusting human on earth. That doesn't mean I'm not thankful for my life and all the wonderful opportunities I've been given. It just means that at times I let my insecurities take hold and it would be nice to hear, "Yeah, society is a bitch and with all the pressures to be beautiful, there are going to be times where you feel like hot garbage." Keep telling your friends that they're beautiful but also tell them that we all feel fat sometimes. Whether you are skinny or your are fat.
I read an article that demonized chubby girls for calling themselves fat. IF it is your reality that you have been or are overweight, then I understand that your struggles don't match with mine. Except, let's go back to that line and focus on the words your struggle. I will never know exactly how anyone feels. I only know what emotions live in me and they are no less valid than any girl or boy for that matter. BOYS struggle with weight as well. There are so many societal implications that say boys can't be this or that. And it SUCKS. It sucks that we have to wake up and look in the mirror and think anything less than "You are fabulous."
I am fabulous.
I love everything about me, except my fat. I don't love my fat and it would be a lie to say that I do. So today, I choose to celebrate me, fat and all. I celebrate. I dance. I drink my coffee and my wine. I eat my tacos. I go on my run. I sit at the pool. I celebrate the fuck out of myself today.
I celebrate myself, even though I FEEL FAT.
My writing muscles are sore.
Which is an amazing spectacular wonder-licious (Adjective and Noun) feeling. Auto Correct really was not having that one. Writing every day ranks just above working out every day.
I've been giving myself prompts, word counts, and working on various projects. Today's prompt was a blast.
Prompt: The World Is Cold
Word Count: (100 words)
The world is cold with no skin.
“It is not necessary,” the loudspeakers boasted. “Without skin there is no racism, jealousy…” The list went on.
Many resisted. “My beautiful nose,” a young woman wailed.
Her boyfriend seemed unimpressed.
“Dear, you didn’t pay for it anyway.”
Dr. Tucker had done some of his best work on her. His slogan was, “I’ll tuck your fattest nightmares away.”
Many plastic surgeons, including himself had shoved their mouths open and put cold metal between their teeth the day after it had been announced that skin was illegal.
“Do carry a jacket,” the loudspeaker continued. “It will get cold.”
Ray Bradbury started many stories with questions and so far this short story has made me wonder, “What would life be like without skin?” This is a piece I hope to return to.
"There ain't nothing I can do -Or nothing I can say- That folks don't criticize me - But I'm going to do Just as I want to anyway." -BIllie Holiday
I want to talk about coffee but before I do, can we talk Billie Holiday?
I live on the same street that Billie Holiday once lived and for some reason I'm so incredibly infatuated with this fact. Creativity is this living and breathing entity and I think that I might be getting a little bit of her wonder through proximity, that gravel that coated her voice, that thing that made her mystical. Maybe you can't catch creativity like one does a cold but I would argue against that. Think about all the wonderful writers out there who are friends.
-James Baldwin and Toni Morrison
-J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis
-Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton (My personal favorite)
Think about those creative coincidences. Yes, maybe that's all that they are but I would like to think that there's a little more at play. The world is a complex place and I like to believe that maybe Elizabeth Gilbert is right, maybe it's magic.
So back to coffee, I have been continuing my quest to find the most inspiring coffee shops on the east coast.
The one's I have on Instagram so far:
1)Battle Ground Coffee and Cafe
3)Bird in Hand **
4) Bmore Licks (coffee and ice-cream)
5) A Baked Joint
6) Ceremony Coffee
So, what's my favorite so far? Well, my favorite place to work is Ceremony because for some reason the calm colors seem to signal to people to keep quiet. I have been multiple times and it's not a particularly loud shop.
However, my favorite has to be Bird in Hand.
There is a book store inside the shop and I love everything about it. There is an 80's/vintage/modern mixed vibe that I can't stop loving. I could go there every single day. I had three drinks, which should tell you how much time I spent in one single visit. I'm obsessed. With Bird in Hand and coffee shops in general.
In every coffee shop, it seems people are there to do more than just exist. They aren't there JUST to eat or JUST to drink. They are there with purpose and that get's me going, almost more than the coffee itself.
Take a look:
“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”
― Dave Barry
I'm excited to spend the next month in coffee shops because to me there is no better place to be.
To celebrate the end of my summer class, I convinced one of my best friends to join me in an impromptu to trip to travel an hour away to Harpers Ferry, a small town in West Virginia on Tuesday morning. My first year of the M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts program at the University of Baltimore is complete. I am aware of time, more than most, I think. As a writer and curious individual, I often think about how short a life truly is and how long we pretend them to be. Even so, I blinked this past year away. I wondered briefly what I have done with my minutes and then I remembered the six classes and internship I took. I was teaching. I was bartending. I was doing all sorts of living, even if it all seems like a jumbled dream at the moment. Happy hours on the weekend don’t help to slow down the chaos. No. Champagne only ever makes your days feel like Play-Dough, but whether I understand it or not, the year is done and I deserve a pat or four on my back.
Another, unrelated but actually related part to this is coffee. I love coffee. I love the smell. The taste. How it looks in a cup. How it looks on my white shirts. That last part is a lie. I hate how coffee looks on my clothes but deal with it due to the fact that it is so incredibly tasty and wonderful. I forgive it, even when it burns me because coffee is b.a.e. and it helps me to do the one thing I love more than anyone or anything, writing. Coffee not only helps me in its ability to wake me up, whether that be late at night when I’m making vodka tonics for 1000 strangers or when I’m writing lessons into the early morning or when I’m trying to finish my second novel for the fifteenth damn time, but it also inspires me. It has cute packaging and coffee is held within shrines that some people call coffee shops but I think of them more like creativity hospitals where the broken go to heal.
This is how I was inspired to travel to thirty coffee shops in thirty days. The point is to travel. The point is to adventure and THAT, that is how this relates to my original point of celebration. I wanted to go to Harpers Ferry to pat myself on the back but I also thought I might find some pretty cool coffee shops on the way. Harpers Ferry was always on my to visit list but it has never made it into the travel vault. With a name like Harpers Ferry, there is no way it could be sans charm.
Harpers Ferry is known for its role in the Civil War. I was not visiting for the historical context but rather had my sights set on the aesthetic appeal. We plugged Harpers Ferry, WV into google maps and drove away from Charm City to the town that might as well be straight out of the 1800s. We were starving by the time that we got to our destination and the GPS brings you to the information center, which is about ½ mile from the actual main street and strip of shops. We decided we would eat before we looked for what would become the first coffee shop in my quest to write more and find the best coffee shops on the east coast.
This is how we happened upon The Mountainhouse Café. The entrance isn’t exactly obvious and upon attempting to open the door, you feel like you might be doing something wrong. After fumbling about and walking up and down the road once or five times, we figured it out. You have to go up the stairs that have absolutely no posted directions. Who knew? We made it inside and the dark interior wasn’t exactly inviting but there’s don’t judge a book by its cover and all that, so we kept going, or I did. Kayla was starving at this point and I was trudging ahead, searching for sustenance, considering I had dragged her along. A crudely made sign at the end of the hall boasted café and shop with an arrow pointing to the right. I would not notice the wall of jams or the various eclectic items that cluttered the foyer till we were leaving. The café has potential. It reminded me as a mix between charming and the inside of a gas station. I would go back again, if asked, for the Kombucha and view. As the name suggests, you feel like you are in a mountain house. A woman was positioned in the corner of the patio that we we were directed to sit on. Nobody else was there, which was the theme of the trip. I gave her a 'we come in peace' smile. She gave a genuine smile back and I felt like mine hadn't been kind enough. Kayla scooted in until her rib cage was center with the table because spider webs covered the beam behind her. Free Postcards was written over a pile of soggy squares on the edge on a shelf by the door. Everything definitely felt old and for a while, as we waited for our food, I felt disappointed. This wasn’t exactly the adventure I was hoping for. I understand I was judging a whole town on one café but because of the rain, everything was abandoned and Harpers Ferry was a ghost town, rather than the quaint and beautiful place it had been described to me as.
When I went inside to pay, after going to the atm, because they only take cash, I struck up a conversation with the young woman behind the register. She had dark hair and a missing tooth and was as much beautiful as she was interesting to look at. This may be a crude description but she looked like a broken doll. It turns out that she was. When I revealed that I was from Baltimore, she revealed that her mother was in the hospital there and she knows Baltimore well and then in a slew of short sentences she told me that her mother got a sort of weird strange case of pneumonia and it was too late to get her on the lung transplant list because you have to really need them or she just didn’t qualify.
Her mother is dead now.
She told me, "But that's good because she was in pain and going through so much and now she's not."
I didn't miss a beat as I say sorry, like you should when someone talks about their dead mother for more than a minute. I can't empathize. That pain sounds so loud, even to me, who can't begin to know.
The worker, with the dead mother and the missing teeth moved two towns over recently. She laughed when she realized that we weren’t the typical hikers or tourists. We weren’t exactly in Harpers Ferry with a plan. She told me that we should walk over beyond the town, to The Point, where a bridge lines up with the train tracks.
And “Where are you from?” gave us the best part of the day.
After of course, we meandered into Battle Grounds Bakery and Coffee. With a full belly and maybe slightly lowered expectations we went to write a little and fuel up on caffeine. From the outside, 180 High Street is appealing but not overly so. Like the rest of the town, you are a little hesitant about what you may or may not be walking into. OF course, you could open YELP, but as we soon found out, service is not the best there. Anyway, we were trying to adventure and the best adventures are not outlined in detail. Was this going to be the coffee shop that I boasted to be charming or would we have to keep looking?
Battle Grounds Bakery and Coffee is indeed appealing, both the inside and the coffee. A couple sat lackadaisically at the long bar that covers the entirety of the shop. A row of goods covered the other side and it had a modern but rustic décor. I probably breathed a sigh of relief but a good sign is when my camera immediately snaps into action. We wandered around for a bit, looking at all the coffee posters that made us laugh and seeing what was on one of two menus. There was only one worker, maybe the owner and she was busy making the two other patrons food. We used that time to sneak about and really investigate the shop. I ordered black coffee with almond milk. Kayla had a cappuccino with sugar-free vanilla. Both were tasty. It was quiet enough to write and although we were tired from our days adventure I was able to get some work done. It was not the hours of writing that I had planned upon because of our late start to the day but If I had more time, It was the kind of place I could have nestled in for a while. I imagine on busy summer days when children scurry inside for ice cream it would not be the best place to relax but on a rainy day, it suited a writing atmosphere.
Coffee still in hand, we walked through the town, finally arriving at our last stop. With a grey sky, dripping but not raining, we looked out on to what people talk about when they rave about Harpers Ferry. Tracks leading into a tunnel line the river and the water stretches ahead. The Point as it is called, where the Shenandoah and Potomac River meet. You can walk along a metal bridge that lines up perfectly with the railroad and water calls to you below. Kayla and I became fairly giddy because we had found the magic and the adventure that we knew we would, somehow. Locks are fastened to the crossing, carved with sayings like “Me and you against the world.” Since we didn’t exactly dress for hiking I assumed that we wouldn’t cross the whole bridge but newly energized, partly to do with the coffee I’m sure, we did. We were met with a sign for the Appalachian Trail. I wished with everything I had that I was prepared for a hike that would last months, but in my hand was an umbrella and car keys. As the sky darkened, I knew we would have to turn around soon.
“I love kayaking, but I’m terrified of dark water,” Kayla told me as we wandered down a piece of a trek that I have always dreamed of hiking.
We all fear what we cannot see, but maybe if we paddle anyway, we’ll reach all the magic we knew was there all along.
Thirty coffee shops in thirty days is not as brave as hiking the Appalachian Trail or as interesting as running a marathon or even as spectacular as trekking across Europe but I have a feeling I might find what I'm looking for.
Titles in writing are hard. They are the first thing you see as a reader and as a writer they are supposed to be what sets the tone for your whole piece. A professor of mine said just to pick a few words from your piece and let that be that. Most of the time that is what I do. However, I both loath and love titles. Two or so words that can make or break a story or poem of any length. Now, that's power.
How do you write your titles? Do you have a magic formula? I would love to know?
A full essay on writing titles coming soon. (:
Red lake was the one we swam to,
deep in the midst of loons and lost lures and It wasn’t really a lake,
more than a hidden pocket, shrouded by broken boats --
too far submerged to be removed, but hidden enough to see their rusty tips
and you told me that nothing would bite me and
I believed you because fear was bubbling in my toes that brushed seaweed and
I imagined that hungry fish were ready to attack,
to feed but you assured me in your confident sixteen year old voice
that it was fine to swim in lake water at night when most creatures are
sleeping and I didn’t know then that you would have said anything
to get me to the shore where it was easy to strip my pink bathing
suit from my skin and your fingers were rough and I hoped you
didn’t see that I was crying but the moon probably gave me away
and did you know that it’s really easy to spot the Big Dipper, from Red Lake?
0317 Grey Lane
Dust covered ventricles on the dining room table
I swallowed the days so there is only now and this place. The rest of everything is shades of empty. An iridescent collection of who we once were but will never be again.
These words are as clumsy as the cricket keeping me alive.
"Oh, Pain. You've always been so self centered and consuming. Just let her go."
"There is nothing left for her now. We will sit here together. A cup of tea?"
Heart breathes, the dust billowing into the air, born and dead all at once.
Pain boils the kettle. Thin fingertips so careful and strong.
"Where did you happen to put the world?"
Pain laughs at hearts question. A chuckle with malevolence and quaint disbelief.
"Did you hear what happened yesterday?" Pain asks. "The attack I mean."
Heart crawls to the edge of the table, a slug of meat, slow and persistent.
"Which attack, Pain?"
Again a laugh. So much anger.
"ALL OF THEM! Every day the world is filled with death and guns and madness. What is the point? The shadows of the world were always shadows."
Pain has picked up dishes and begun to toss them against the wall. The crashes each have a distinct sound. First like a gunshot and then a bomb and the last dish Pain throws sounds just like a scream.
Heart waits. "Do you believe the world is bad?"
Pain picks up another dish, and aims for heart.
"I believe the world is angry."
Heart has to leap to dodge the flying china. Heart has been fairly calm and polite but in its attempt to save itself, a few obscenities do slip from its mouth.
Heart lands safely on the ground.
"Fuck. Pain. Just because you're hurting does not mean you can destroy the world around you."
Pain crumples to the ground, gathering heart near to the chest.
"I'm sorry, Heart."
Heart beats and pats Pain in a comforting gesture.
"The world can't live without us both, pain."
"Why? I feel so guilty for my existence."
"Pain, you make chocolate taste sweeter. You make kisses more wild. You turn smiles into laughter. Without you there would be nothing."
A window on 0517 Grey Lane opens.
"We meet the darkness with grace."
Below is a painting from The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
"...even when love comes back, it still is not yours. You just get to exist with it. That has to be enough."
I fell out of love once.
It happened quickly. One day my heart swelled and the next it deflated like a New Years Balloon on January 8th, pathetic-empty.
I have written about this before. One day I was happy, looking forward to our future together and then I wasn't. I tried to explain this in a way that was fair but the truth is, there is no fair way to tell someone you don't love them anymore. People talk about how to manage divorce and breakups in an amicable way. Except if one or both parties still invested, the strings of their hearts entangled in the situation, I don't believe there is a way to really manage. It's just going to hurt. And then one day you wake up and it doesn't hurt as much. So many articles out there give advice on how to get over a breakup. First of all, I don't think you ever get over true love. If you love someone they change your DNA, man. They change the way you breathe. They change you and that's okay. I think that we need to transmute the language here, you don't get over a breakup. You just move on. Yeah, maybe you get over the guy from your local gym that brought you for pizza twice. But you don't get over the big loves, the ones that made you believe that your ribcage was too small to fit their light.
I have fallen out of love and once someone fell out of love with me. Both situations seem impossibly unfortunate.
This has taught me that love belongs to no-one. It is not something that can be owned. You cannot wrap a lasso around a relationship and expect it to stay. Trust me, I wish that you could. I love my boyfriend with everything that I have. If I could bubble wrap us together, I probably would. But I know. I know the tighter you hold, the less that you feel. There is a reason for the cliche, “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be."
The problem with this saying is that even when love comes back, it still is not yours. You just get to exist with it. That has to be enough. I know how incredibly unnerving that is for the anxious and controlling among us. I can see your thoughts, my husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/wife is mine. That's just not the truth.
They only belong to them. You are a guest in their life. One that is only there as long as you are invited. Even marriage won't stop someone from leaving you. I swear I'll get to a positive point soon.
I'm in a coffee shop and the women behind the counter received a phone call from her friend. I soon later that they haven't talked in a while when she relayed the situation and phone call to her co-worker.
My ears perked at "God, Ellie, I'm so sorry."
I couldn't hear the other end of the phone conversation but I know her. She is me. She is my friends. She is every girl who was blindsided by someone falling out of love with them.
"He hasn't talked to you in how many days? You're moving out?"
My empathy barrels onto this page. How fucking sad is it when someone falls out of love? My empathy is for him too. I don't think a single human out there wants to fall out of love. I don't think they wake up one day and say to themselves, "I want to feel emptiness around this other human I have built a life with." I do believe there is a difference between falling out of love and getting into slumps. I believe that when you give someone your heart you should do everything in your power to make sure that a breakup is actually what you want before you carelessly take it back. Because sometimes love can kick-start again. See below. However, sometimes the wires get crossed, they get tangled like the cords behind the tv, and from personal experience, nothing can fix that.
It's just there is no good way to fall out of love.
The coffee shop girl, skin like clean charcoal, turns to her co-worker. "He told her that he doesn't love her anymore and that he's been thinking about it for months."
I used to be so angry at people who lead their significant other on, stringing them along for months, even years. It occurred to me one day that sometimes people aren't staying because they're scared or being cruel. They stay when they're trying - when they're hoping it will get better.
For Ellie and this guy. It never did.
I am so damn fearful that this will happen to me again. That fear won't stop time though. It won't stop the truth.
I am so incredibly lucky to have what I have right now and that is what I'm going to hold onto.
My biggest New Years resolution is instead of aiming to love people forever, I'm going to do a better job of loving them right now.
I'm not going to take my love for granted.
If it goes, I'll set it free...
Santa threw up again.
That's what I say to my mother every year as I walk into my childhood home. I know, I am such a sweet daughter. My mom bombards every inch of her house with Christmas decor. The Santa Clauses stare at me with their vacant dead eyes. I know in those instances there's no place like home for the holidays.
My mom picked me up from the airport and we made our yearly stop at the Bolingbrook promenade mall. People bustled around, shopping bags filling their arms, rushing to finish last minute shopping. We were looking for a blush dress that I could wear to my friend's wedding that will take place in early January. Last minute as well, but our urgency was less pressing. The immense tree in the center of the shopping area was accompanied by a blaring song, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." The tune mixed with the frantic bodies combined to create a cacophony of sounds that pulsed through the small road which was adorned by a decorative sign. The street was named Hemingway. The Chicago temperatures stretched to a mere twenty degrees. I had forgotten that abrupt feeling that occurs as your body exits the arctic air and enters the warmth of a store. It is both pleasant and jarring. You forget a lot of things when you're away long enough.
I was thirteen when my mom decided we should move to Plainfield, Illinois. I remember the many phone calls where she cited her reasoning as "I want them to have access to a better school district." The truth was that my brothers were smashing car windows, smoking weed, and skipping school constantly. I don't know when the last straw was but it might have been around the time that they left me home alone when she was working a night shift. We were living in Bolingbrook, Illinois then. Drew Peterson was the police officer on duty who called my mother to inform her that the boys had broken curfew along with a few other laws. Yes, the same Drew Peterson whose third wife was murdered and his fourth wife went missing. Apparently I was sleeping throughout the whole exchange.
My childhood consists of similar strange incidents such as this. None of them are particularly traumatizing, depending on the person whose reading I presume. Yet, there is something unsettling about visiting the place where you morphed into a cognoscente member of society. You no longer inhabit the place that shaped you but this is where you became you. Anytime I come home I feel like I'm in a movie montage as my past, the good and the ugly, plays out in my head on repeat.
We departed Francesca's and although there were a few more stores I wanted to walk to down the way, I stopped.
I looked at the area where I had been proposed to four years prior. I remember how my glove wouldn’t come off. “You light up my life like nobody else…” He sang the song off tune and my life made sense in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. The montage moves to the moment I gave up on our relationship. My ex-fiance informed me that he wanted to take his friend to New York. My hair was in curls and I was wearing a much too pink dress. We were supposed to take our engagement photos.
This was only four years ago. He is married to someone else now. Memories like this aren’t filled with pain or regret. I think about them as if I’m peeking into the window of someone else’s house.
Whenever I come home, I feel like the ghost of Christmas past, showing myself who I used to be.
I will never understand how people can change and stay the same in the exact same body. The awkward seventeen-year-old who painted her face with neon colors in an attempt to stand out and fit in is more alive here in this place than when I’m back in Baltimore. She’s still alive though. I spend a lot of time running from her, but here she is, waiting.
So I ask myself, does going home have to be this emotionally tumultuous thing?
I lost my first love here. Fifteen minutes away, one of my best friend’s died on a gravel road. This is where I learned that abuse changes people.
All of those facts remain true. They don’t negate another truth, a bigger truth. I am still the new me despite the memories that exist in this place. They do not threaten who I have become. I sit on my couch with a cup of tea, snuggled in my nutcracker jammies. I am simultaneously my teenage self and my now self. I accept that I am not who I thought I was going to be. Is anyone?
I am a teacher in Baltimore City. I am a girlfriend to an incredibly sweet, often times grouchy man who teaches me about patience, love, and understanding every single day. I am presently completing my MFA at the University of Baltimore.
One second I was the me four years ago and then a variety of choices I hardly remember making happened and here I am. It is Christmas 2017. Santa threw up again. Some things will always stay the same and some will never be the same. I spend so much time worrying about this and the future. James always says, “Stop being stuck in what could happen. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.” I hate when he says this. I hate it so incredibly much.
It’s true though. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can prepare and plan and make goals. We can want and wish and hope. And still, we just don’t know.
A Danish philosopher, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
I have been living life backward, stuck in between those minutes that have come and gone, long ago. There is a painting on the far wall next to the fireplace that often catches my eye. It has four sleds that lean against a fence. Each one has a name in it, not one of us remotely the same person as we were when the artwork was bought. It hits me then, why would we be? Why is it so surprising that time passes? Nostalgia cracks your ribs open, but if you sit long enough, it can also close those same divots.
I think coming home will always be an emotional time for me. I also know that just because I have been broken does not mean I have to continue to break.
We passed by the house I grew up in on the first day I was back. “Mom, that’s the street where our first house is!” She nodded and turned without prompting. I think we wanted to “take a trip down memory lane.” When the bombs went off in Hiroshima they say that the people and objects made literal imprints on the ground. There were no bombs here. I see the shadows though, pressed into the siding of the house. They’re only visible to us. I snap a few pictures of the house where we lived.
We drove away and I’m back on the couch, just trying to be here. I never knew there would be a day where it would be so incredibly hard to just exist without all of the yesterdays telling you what to do. I never knew that NOW would be so impossibly difficult. I wiggle my toes and yawn. I think about what book I’m going to read. I spread myself in this moment like jam so that nothing from either side of my existence can seep in.
I’m glad that my mom keeps the Christmas decorations up until I leave. It’s my favorite time of the year.
What you'll find here:
A Dash Of Motivation
Emily Ann Hansen
I'm a writer and teacher living in Baltimore City. I'm originally from Chicago. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Fiction. Instead of babbling, I will list a few of the things in life that make me happy: