an assortment of thoughts

i haven't been able to listen to music. 

i don't know what happened. last week music was fine, but this week music does nothing but make me feel sad. i can't even listen to the songs that have no connection to him. i can't bring myself to play them. so i've been listening to podcasts and trying to read and watch tv but i miss music. in an effort to avoid love as a theme, i have sunk into my true crime podcasts and criminal minds tv episodes. i'm not sure these are the healthiest choices i could be making as a now single woman who is moving through the city mostly by herself, but oh well. serial killers it is. [i watched all of mindhunter when away in oregon earlier this month (when he was treating me terribly, when i knew it was a matter of days before we ended). mindhunter got me through some rough days...oddly. i'm not sure what this says about me...i'm not going to think about it too hard...]

--

deleting photos is an annoying process. there are so many more to go. boo.

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taking a step back, i always find it interesting how the different stages of heartbreak appear and disappear and reappear. the stages have this odd familiarity. like a friend that just moved to L.A. for a bit, but has come back to the city. i'm like, oh hello there extremely painful third week! oh i remember this phase. the you can't shake it phase. i wonder how long you'll be around.

most of the day, i haven't been able to shake the sadness. i haven't been able to shake the anger. i haven't been able to shake the sense of loss, the sense of confusion, the sense of frustration. they have just been there, sitting inside my chest, right behind my eyes. i silently pleaded for them to go away. just for a bit. they have done no such thing so i am sitting here doing my best not to cry, but also knowing that it will end there. now or later, it will end in tears. i keep thinking of this nayyirah waheed poem: expect sadness/like/you expect the rain./both/cleanse you...

--

sadness is cleansing. tears are cleansing. cleanse me, i whisper as i cry, cleanse me. wipe away the dirt and grime, wipe away the pain, wipe away the hurt and pain, wipe away the fear, wipe away the grasping, wipe away the loss, wipe away the self-doubt, wipe away...cleanse me. rejuvenate me. let me jump into the puddles left behind.

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but there was a moment, a few moments, today that i was fine...when i was teaching. teaching made me feel grounded. teaching got me out of my own head. teaching reminded me of the present and what's right in front of me. and of course, that faded as soon as the class ended and here i was fighting with sadness again...but i had that moment. i felt it. holy shit, i thought. teaching is going to get me thru, i thought. and it will. along with everything else. 

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viola davis tweeted out an image that said "what if you simply devoted this year to loving yourself." 

that is my work. i know it is. loving myself. loving my work. believing in my worthiness. believing that i am more than what one person saw or concluded. believing my dreams can come true. knowing i am a good person. knowing i am a loving person. knowing another crack in my heart will only make it beat more furiously, will only make it more determined, will only make it more clear on what it wants and needs. that is the work. that is the lesson. back to me, back to loving me, back to loving my work, back to growing, back to the beat of my own heart.

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speaking of which, as soon as this music hatred ends, i'd really love to go dancing. i need dancing. someone come dance with me. like rihanna. 

 

she

I sit with it. I walk with it. I feel it in me, like a ghost just underneath my skin. 

I’m sad she says. I know I say.

And then we sit and walk and move on, she and I twin sisters, chimera, attached like a invisible woman down into a dress.** 

This sadness feels so familiar to me. I know heartbreak. While this one does not feel as earth-shattering as before, my heart feels wearier. She worries. But she knows what it is like to break and have to put herself together again and so she knows she has to wait, has to be patient, and already she is weary but also knows she will keep beating because that is what she does. she's over it and not. 

I’m sad she, the one in me, says. I’m sad because in the end he seemed to be revolted by your very existence, seemed he wished you’d disappear from view, seemed to be laughing behind your back, planning his escape, cringing at your smile and your touch... 

Stop, I tell her. I already know. I don’t want to think of this. I don’t want to remember anything. 

I wish I didn’t have to cry for someone who seemed to care less about me in the end. My therapist says that I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t cry about this someone. It’s one of the qualities that makes you, you and it’s a good thing, she says. 

She, the one inside me, starts to scream. I’m carrying groceries home and she is screaming. She is livid. She is red. She is throwing things. Burning things. Destroying things. She is angry and I am walking down the street with no expression just with the groceries as she yells for answers she will never get. She blames me. She yells at me. She tears me down. And I carry the groceries. I whisper that I know she has to do this, but really...maybe...really...could she pause. I can't hear myself over her yelling. And it is only when I get home and see something that frustrates me that suddenly I am yelling too and cursing and letting the anger fill us both. I hate her and I tell her that. I tell her I hate that I am stuck with her. Just her. Again. I tell her I don't want this either.  And we are yelling and yelling and yelling and we realize we are mad at him. We are so mad at him. We curse him. We are walking the dog and we are cursing him out as we yell inside. We yell about feeling as though we can’t be angry. We yell about feeling as though we can’t be vulnerable. We yell because we never yell and all we want to do is yell. We yell because he never heard us yell and now never will and that makes us even angrier.

And then it’s over. 

We are yelled out.

We just feel the anger. And the sadness. Still there. Intertwined. 

I sigh. And cry. And she, the one in me, the sad and angry one, me, says I’m sad and I say I know and she says I'm angry and I say I know and that's wonderful and feel it and yell and cry and let it out and then someone else comes up and asks how are you and we say okay and these are all true and we walk and we sit and I feel her, the sadness, underneath the okayness mixed with the anger and I’m tired and it’s just the beginning and all there is to do is wait and work and breathe and grow and one day realize my twin, my chimera, my invisible girl sown into skin is resting. 

Until then we walk together and when we get home I’ll make her some tea or pour a glass of wine or even just some water because we need to stay hydrated and I sit with her until one of us falls asleep.

**image borrowed from a short story by carmen maria machado

burn

i am sitting here, watching a bunch of papers burn.

it is not as cathartic as i was hoping. the fire didn't grow large and the papers didn't burst into flames and disintegrate quickly. it is now smoldering, slowly turning the pages with words into darkened remnants of themselves. but it is taking too long and i can still make out some of the words and i don't want to anymore. 

you see the papers have words of love. these papers have promises of a lifetime together. these papers use to sit on my dresser, a daily reminder of the love i had and cherished.

today that love left.

i wasn't surprised that that love left today. i was blindsided three weeks ago when i got the first inkling, but today i wasn't. it has been a long, downright unfair three weeks, but i knew they'd be over today and so when i came home and 40min later that love left...i was not surprised.

the papers got to smokey so i had to cover them with water. also not as cathartic as i hoped.

i've been here before. in this very apartment. just over two years ago. i've been here, staring at a man's stuff that has yet to be removed. i know there are steps ahead. awkward dances while things are packed up and moved and then taken out. i know there will be the moment it is just me again here. me and the dog and our stuff. i know this will feel good and heartbreaking at the same time.

this time i don't know if i'll keep the couch or if he'll take it. who paid for it after all? maybe him? or maybe he bought the rug? i know the trunk and the tv will go, as will the record player and the sonos. at least two of the bookcases are his...but right now i am here staring at it all. feeling like everything has changed and yet the only sign here is that his suitcase is gone.

here are some things i've learned: don't buy a boyfriend tickets to hamilton. they will leave you before you get to go. also don't renew your lease for two years...you will be stuck in an apartment you probably wouldn't leave anyway, but now are committed to for two more years. also, if it feels like your boyfriend wants to break up with you and you have a trip planned to his hometown, maybe don't go. you'll spend the whole time feeling like it is a weird goodbye that no one else is in on. also, very often, you might be the one who has to start the breakup conversation. it will feel like you are breaking up with yourself. this might make it hurt more in the short term, but at least you know now. at least you can restart now.

i want to burn the memories away but i can't, can i? 

the ends of relationships always reveal what someone actually thought about you. i have a new list of things to worry about. i have once again learned that sharing something vulnerable and scary can lead to someone leaving. i once again have learned i feel like a burden to someone in some ways. i look forward to internalizing all of this and having my therapist try to talk it out of me. of course it reveals disappointing things about your now ex too. things i'm glad to know now, but wish i didn't.

i hate how we get here and how something once so beautiful ends cold and painful. 

at least he walked the dog. and took down the tree. and vacuumed all the pine needles off the floor. before i got home. before we'd officially say, it's over.

i can still smell the smoke and can feel it in my eyes and i don't want his words in my eyes.

i'll be 32 in forty-nine days. this feels significant, but probably isn't. i didn't think i'd be where i am, but i also feel okay about being here. i've done so much crying the last three weeks that i haven't really cried tonight. i'm sure it will come. i know myself well enough to know it will happen. but i also feel okay. i feel the most grounded i've felt in three weeks. maybe that is because tonight i worked with six women in a class all about being a badass. i don't feel like a badass, but i left there tonight with my breath and mind clear and grounded. i came home open and vulnerable, but also with a great sense of self, with a little fire in my belly about who i am and who i want to be and what i want. 

that's a fire that is still burning. and i hope she keeps burning these next few days and weeks when things get harder and it hits me that love left...i hope she keeps burning as i move in the world and try to find someone who will love and not leave. i hope she keeps burning as i do all the writing i have to do. i hope she keeps burning and burning and burning and burning... 

16 years.

Maybe it is because this year has been a particularly rough one for me and my family. Maybe it is because I am learning a lot more about my anxiety and its origins and I am realizing that as much as I've liked to claim this day had no lasting effects on me, I am realizing how wrong I was. Maybe it is because I realized that today, of all days, is not a day for me to be on social media. Maybe it is because my mom cried a little remembering how my grandfather and uncle worried about us and now my grandpa is gone.

Regardless, today I am feeling especially emotional, especially raw, and I cried a bit about the memories of today for the first time in years.

Below is a blog post I wrote six years ago about my experience on 9/11. I share it now because...this is what my mind remembers, continues to remember, each anniversary. 

On September 12th, 2001, I sat in the backseat of the car. My mother and grandmother sat up front. In the trunk was everything we could fit and everything I would need for my first few days back at boarding school. We couldn't fit everything. We weren't supposed to be driving this car. This car was my dad's, loaned to us for the day in order to get me up to New Hampshire. We were supposed to be driving my grandparents' minivan.

But that car was stuck in lower Manhattan.

On September 11th, 2001, my mom, grandmother and I got up early and drove to Brooklyn. I had a dentist's appointment. I was hoping that today would be the day I got my braces off. I was excited. Later that day, we would drive up to NH, I would see my friends, start my sophomore year of high school and I would show off my braceless face.

By 8:40am, I was already upset. My braces stayed on. This was not the plan. Not the plan at all. I got back in the car, arms folded, and sulked. The icing on the cake: my mom had a meeting at her office on Wall St. My grandmother and I were to wait for her and then we'd travel to NJ, load up the car, and get on the road. The sulking continued.

In car, we listened to the radio. Someone mentioned a fire at the World Trade Center. Someone said a plane had gone into it. Someone said, "What kind of an idiot would accidentally fly into the World Trade Center?" A firetruck flew by us.

We parked in Lower Manhattan. I got out of the car and looked at the building in front of me. It was 9:03am. All of a sudden there was a loud noise. My hands flew to my ears before I even realized what was going on. It was a sort of zoom sound, like in an action movie, and then an explosion. I then ran to the street corner and saw the other tower had been hit.

Those around me began a dialogue of 'oh my gods', 'my friend works there', 'this has to be an attack', 'the sears tower has been hit', etc. At some point, my mother went to her meeting. At some point, I was able to make a phone call to my grandfather and my uncle who were home watching it all on TV. At 9:37am, the Pentagon was hit, but I wouldn't know this until the evening. My grandmother and I walked around for a bit, listening to the conversations, gathering information. We then settled back at the car, on the street corner, looking up.

'Those buildings are very strong,' a man said behind me. 'They can withstand a lot.'

Less than a minute later, at 9:59am, the south tower fell.

Less than 30 seconds after that, I heard, "Oh shit." I looked forward and saw a cloud of dust and debris coming toward me.

I ran.

And then I realized that my 82 year old grandmother couldn't run. So we walked. The cloud engulfed us. Papers from Cantor Fitzgerald and other offices lined the streets. A pair of navy blue pumps had been abandoned. You couldn't see the sun. And, for the first time, I realized that this, everything that had happened, was a sign of something major going on. And I realized that this could just be the beginning. And I realized that at 15 years old, I could very well die.

What happened after I remember in snapshots. Walking toward the South Street Seaport. My grandmother refusing to go any further until we found my mother. Two men stopping to ask if we were okay and to calm me down. Me praying to god, telling him it would be okay if I died. That I understood I was lucky to have lived as long as I had. At some point, the north tower fell. Walking into the South Street Seaport and waiting in line at a Banana Republic which let people use their landline phone. My uncle answering the phone, "Charly?!" when I finally got through. Waiting even longer for my mother who eventually found us. Walking through the empty, dust-laden streets. Hearing and watching F15s fly other head. Calling my dad and letting him know that, unbeknownst to him, I was in Lower Manhattan. Fighting with my mom and grandmother who wanted to stay with the car since they didn't know what would happen to it. A tug boat to NJ. Being washed off by men in Hazmat suits. A bus. A sign in the window that said the end is near. Another bus. Walking home. Stepping out of my clothes and showering, but not washing my hair. Listening to Bush speak and being scared of his words.

And then it was September 12th and I was in the backseat of a car. I spent the over 5 hours in the car writing. I wrote down every detail I could remember about the day before. Pages and pages of my experience on September 11th, 2001 .The journal, I believe, was in a box in my father's basement, which means it was destroyed in his flood.

 10 years later and I am still writing. I am not sure if that matters or not. What matters was that I wrote it all down today and 10 years ago, got it all out. Writing about it has helped me understand it...well, as much as anyone could...and I guess it is my version of never forgetting. We write to create, to escape, but we also write to remember.

 

blue

i want to tell you about the blue of the casket.

i want you to know how beautiful it was and how striking and how it matched his suit and how i couldn't keep my eyes off of it.

i want you to know how it looked underneath the flag this afternoon and how it looked after we placed roses on top of it and how it looked when we walked away.

i want you to know that i will always remember that blue. that now, that blue is casket blue. it is my grandfather's blue.

i want to paint the walls this color blue. 

i want to carry that color blue in my heart.

i want to wear it every day.

i want to hold it, place my hand on it, see it in the winter sun.

i want that blue to seep in and out of my blood. i want it to be the blue in my veins.

i want you to understand that the emotions and feelings that are still underneath and unprocessed and still bubbling to the surface...i want you to understand that they are wrapped up in this color blue. 

i want you to know and to see because maybe if you knew and if you saw you'd feel how i feel--somewhere between fine

 and numb

and

well

blue.

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just a day in february

74 years tomorrow, we say. valentine's day 1943. 

my grandparents met at an USO dance. my grandma, feisty then too, told him he was too short for her. my grandfather cut in anyway. 

-

my grandfather lies in a hospital bed. when i first walk in, he follows me with his eyes. i don't know if he knows its me. when my mother walks in though, he perks up. he knows its her. 

-

i've always known that when my mother's parents, maud & joe, got sick or passed away, i'd have to step up. that has been clear since one afternoon about 15 years ago, when my mom mentioned their eventual deaths and her face turned the color of a tomato. ohh, i remember thinking. oooh, she is going to lose it.

in the car, on the way to the hospital yesterday, i point out that she is telling me something i literally just heard because i was next to her in the car.

"you are gonna have to keep an eye on me. i am losing it," she says.

"i know. i've always known what my job would be in this situation."

she smiles. "yeah...you have."

-

i get the call that we need to see my grandfather while standing in line for flowers. i decided to get my boyfriend flowers the day before valentine's day and to leave them so when he got home from work (and when i was at a meeting), he'd see them waiting for him. it is windy and cold and i am sweaty from spin class and my mom calls and says we have to go see grandpa.

he is not doing well.

ok. i run through everything i need to do and change before she gets me. i stand for a second in line, wondering if i should abandon the flowers.

i get them anyway because i realize that now, more than ever, i want to leave a little thing to let my boyfriend know i love him.

when i get home, i email some friends i had written about a possible galentine's day meet-up to cancel. i get emails of love back. when i text my boyfriend about what's going on, he offers to meet me at the hospital. i tell him not to do that. but knowing he would hits me deeply.

-

i look between my grandmother and my grandfather. my grandmother sits in a chair in her coat. it is cold to her. she will ask me if i am cold another 100 times before the day is over. i will say "no" every time. even when i am a little chilly. i look at her and i look at my grandfather and i think about love and time. i wonder what it is like to have known and been with someone for 74 years. i wonder what it is like to sit next to them in a hospital bed. 

maybe she doesn't understand what's really happening, we muse.

later, my grandmother turns to me and says, "soon there won't be anything they can do".

maybe love and time and age prepare you in their own way.

maybe not.

i hold her hand and she holds it back. she strokes my hand. i know one day my hands will look like hers.

-

after a particularly frustrating class, i pull out my phone and see i have a text.

grandpa broke his hip. he needs surgery.

that was last week.

in september, it was facebook and a voicemail that alerted me to my granddaddy's, my dad's dad, death.

i've never liked the phone.

-

i knew this lesson already, but i relearned these last two weeks that sometimes great things happen at the same time as not so great things happen. highs and lows, peaks and valleys, come together.

-

my mother is sitting and staring at my grandfather, her father. she looks at him the way a little girl looks at her daddy. i am watching the past and the present and i see the future on her face as she wipes a tear from her eye.

my grandfather says things that are hard to hear. he says them to my mother. i find myself getting mad at my grandfather for saying things that clearly hurt her. i don't say anything obviously, but i rub my mom's back when we step out the room.

my mom will sit here for hours. she will hold a vigil longer than all of us. she will listen to it all.

i remind her that she needs rest too.

she nods and looks back to my grandfather. 

i look down at my phone. a text. the boyfriend checking in, making sure i am okay. i text him the words i cannot say out loud.

-

my parents met on valentine's day too. 

for years i thought i was destined to meet the one i loved on valentine's day too.

i think i realized that wasn't necessarily going to happen when my dad got engaged to his now ex-wife on valentine's day too.

who needs all that weight on a day in february?

-

we leave after hours in the hospital. my mom admits she only left because i was there. otherwise she would still be there. 

it is only later, as we drive back toward the city, that i wonder if i have seen my grandfather for the last time.

but he was talking. and he knew i was there. and so...

i don't know. 

i don't like not knowing.

-

i forget to tell my mom happy valentine's day when i step out the car and when i call her in the morning. but i say i love you both times.

-

i get home from the hospital around midnight. i call my mother to make sure she gets home okay and when she does, around 12:30am, i tiptoe into the bedroom. it is cold in the bedroom because he is always too hot. i am always too cold. and so i think of closing the window, but i don't. i sneak under the covers and then he shifts and puts his arms around me. i don't know if he is really awake or if it is a reflex. i don't say anything and he doesn't say anything, but i am under the covers and warm because he is there. 

in the morning, he gets out of bed to begin his morning routine. i open my eyes and smile. when he tells me happy valentine's day, i realize i had forgotten, just for a moment, what day it was.

today is valentine's day. 

my grandparents met 74 years ago today. 

my parents met 35 years ago today. 

this is just a day in february that makes me think about love, loved ones, and loved things.

quiet, a poem

the following is a little poem i wrote when thinking about quiet moments...

 

the kind of quiet

sometimes the world feels too loud

it feels like everyone is speaking and no one is listening

and all I want to do is bring my hands to my ears

close my eyes

wish myself into another existence

into another moment

into the quiet of the woods

into a time and place when I can hear my breath

and almost hear my heart

and i can hear the squirrel in the leaves

and the wind in the branches

and your feet on the path in front of me.

sometimes I can’t deal with the all caps

with the retorts

with the everyone trying to one up each other

trying to be the loudest

trying to be the smartest

trying not to give a shit the most

sometimes I want quiet care

I want a hand on top of mine

that look of understanding

that search for connection

sometimes the world is so loud

I wonder if we are trying to yell

to prove to ourselves that we are here

like how teenagers’ voices bounce off our ear drums

as they find the bounds between youth and adulthood

or like how we othered people, we who have been othered,

have had to yell to prove that we exist

have feelings and lives and blood and bone

we yell to show we are alive and cannot be ignored

we yell to show we are not to be inferior-ized, child-ized

and so what does it mean that I sometimes can’t handle the decibel

can’t handle the yelling

wait

maybe it is that there is just too much yelling

and I can’t hear the ones that matter,

the ones that hit my soul,

the ones that I say

yes yes yes yes yes yes to

sometimes I worry that my yearning for quiet is just a form of escape

and is an attempt to ignore the work that my life requires

and sometimes I note that it is just that I am an introvert

and my soul prefers written words read with tea and a pen in hand

alone or nearly alone on a Saturday afternoon

I wonder how to balance the sound needed to thrive

and the sound that feels as though it beats me

down further into myself so that I don’t just yearn for quiet

but also for isolation

 

I want the kind of quiet you learn from

the kind of quiet that you listen to and in

the kind of quiet that prepares you for battle

the kind of quiet that is actually quite lou