26 January 2010

it's the only way to lose ourselves

Let's journey before sunrise, through carafes of roses and cobble-stoned streets, and strains of German we don't understand. Let's drink red wine from the bottle and toast our enlightened, philosophical minds. Let's sing songs of ghosts and trip our way through our fears. Let's throw off our terror and play telephone and lounge on plush cushions, revel in our anonymity and kisses at great heights and discuss paintings' edges dissolving into mist. Let's appreciate angular architecture (angels in the architecture) and be poems leaning on streetlamps. No delusions. I pledge my transience to you by violin songbursts and hazy focus. Graze my cheekbone with your whisper-soft face, and then leave me. Let's be dreamy slackers for a day, no questions, nobody to answer to but us and this and yes.
"Daydream delusion, limousine eyelash / Oh baby with your pretty face / Drop a tear in my wineglass / Look at those big eyes / See what you mean to me / Sweet-cakes and milkshakes / I'm a delusion angel / I'm a fantasy parade / I want you to know what I think / Don't want you to guess anymore / You have no idea where I came from / We have no idea where we're going / Lodged in life / Like branches in a river/ Flowing downstream / Caught in the current / I carry you / You'll carry me / That's how it could be / Don't you know me? / Don't you know me by now?"

"I always feel this pressure of being a strong and independent icon of womanhood, and without making it look my whole life is revolving around some guy. But loving someone, and being loved means so much to me. We always make fun of it and stuff. But isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?"

“You need to resign yourself to the awkwardness of life. Only if you find peace within yourself will you find true connection with others...You are both stars, don’t forget it. When the stars exploded billions of years ago, they formed everything that is this world. Everything we know is stardust. So, don’t forget, you are stardust.”

Oh let not time deceive you, you cannot conquer time.
(but that's okay)

25 January 2010

Give the cat a name

I'm ashamed of how selfish I've been lately. Things bigger than me, bigger than this small life, are churning out there, and all I've done is stay in my cocoon wrapped in my own ignorance. Here's a secret: I called in to give money to the Haiti relief effort during the telethon on Friday, but only half of me did it in order to help. The other half wanted to talk on the phone with a celebrity (which didn't happen anyway). How terrible is that? I can't stand it...and yet I know, this blog is about me, it's a place for me to bounce my thoughts into the cosmic void and therefore reach catharsis. The balance, however, between reflective and between self-absorbed continually eludes me.
In my desire to be a better person and also to tell my personal truth, I've decided to write about a cause that is dear to my heart, one that I hope many of you know: To Write Love on Her Arms. I remember a few months ago, when we had To Write Love on Her Arms day, and I was amazed and moved by the number of students who showed up to school with "love" written in loopy letters on wrists, elbows, hands...because it was to acknowledge a cause that has often been the silent destroyer, one associated with shame and isolation because nobody believed it merited attention. I speak of depression and self-injury (in the wide-reaching sense of the term). TWLOHA bears the following mission and vision:

"To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.


The vision is that we actually believe these things…

You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you're part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters.

We live in a difficult world, a broken world. My friend Byron is very smart - he says that life is hard for most people most of the time. We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know that you're not alone in the places you feel stuck."

I remember a few years ago, my senior year in college, when I took a Writing and the Representation of Pain course. For our final assessment, we had to compose a portfolio of writing about our own personal pain. I'm lucky in that I've suffered from little physical pain, and I've suffered few life-altering events from which people would understand my being...well...off. The relative ease of my life, however, leads many to doubt the validity of the emotional waves that have wracked my life since I was 14 years old. I've had mornings when I could not get out of bed due to tremors. I've had tears that seemed to have a mind of their own. I've destroyed romantic relationships, or they've destroyed them once they proved their inability to be the supportive lover I needed. I've lost friends, regained them, then lost them again. I've almost failed my senior year of high school and almost had to be hospitalized in New York. Throughout all of these experiences, relapses and recoveries, I've never lost the sense of shame that, to some extent, my emotions have the better of me. So when it came time for me to craft this portfolio, I worried about whether my writing about depression would be seen as brave or as indulgent. Was this truly pain, after all, in a world where we have orphans buried under rubble, females being mutilated, and genocides based on arbitrary distinctions? I'm lucky in that my professor was inspirational and told me I was brave, that by writing about my pain I might prevent others'. Here is a bit from the essay that earned his praise:

"Some people imagine depression as scientific or biological, a physical fact of neurotransmitters and brain chemicals that need to be stabilized. Others think about it as emotional, choosing adjectives such as “sad” or “miserable” to describe their feelings. I think of depression as wholly spatial, about places in which the “me” objects that used to inhabit the room disappear and are replaced with foreign, destructive objects: the objects of depression. Interestingly, one of the spatial adjectives often used to describe depression is “empty,” and even though I have used this adjective in the past, when I think about what I feel when I am depressed it is more that I am full of something foreign. I think about depression in terms of rooms and houses. If I could describe what I am like when I am not depressed, it would definitely be an aestheticized scene—I would be a room with beautiful useless objects, such as glass bird paperweights and unmatching floral China teacups, perfume bottles, and intricate lamps, arranged on a background of clean, light green walls and lace curtains.
When I am depressed, that room ceases to exist as I know it. Foreign objects invade it and the room becomes dirty, cluttered, and dark. Andrew Solomon’s friend Laura describes one aspect of my version of depression when she says, “[A]ll the color had drained out of my soul, all the me of me I loved; I was a little doll-shell of what I had been” (Solomon 98), but this is only half of the process, one for which Andrew Solomon has found a perfect vocabulary. He insists that depression is both “degrading” and “eclipsing,” the destruction of the objects that used to inhabit the room and the supplantation of those objects with new ones that are foreign and ultimately un-you. It is both birth and death, “both the new presence of something and the total disappearance of something” (Solomon 17). Furthermore, the new objects in the room are much less defined than the objects of the self, vague because they are tied to emotions and incidents that are almost impossible to describe in words. Solomon describes his depressive feelings as “it,” although he states that “I could not have managed even to be so specific as to say what ‘it’ was” (Solomon 51). While the eclipsing objects are undefined, their presence causes the pre-existing self to become foreign and lost as well as the newly laid-out room threatens to overtake all memories of the beautiful, aestheticized room of the past. This total eclipse of the self is best evinced by F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Winter Dreams,” whose protagonist is unable to even name the self he used to possess: “‘Long ago,’ he said, ‘long ago, there was something in me, but now that thing is gone. Now that thing is gone, that thing is gone. I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come back no more.’” That “something” seems irreversibly gone, turning from familiar to foreign, and replaced by something just as foreign but ultimately destructive."

I wish I could say that writing about my pain proved to be the final push I needed, that everything ceased to matter and that I never relapsed. New York proves that wrong, and every now and then, I worry that it's coming back again. In general, though, I don't feel that shame anymore-- I know that there are people out there to help me, who know me, who do not think me weak. I have friends who understand when I'm bottling up my sadness and those who listen when I need to release the pressure. Not everyone is that lucky, unfortunately, and even I forget that I have kindred spirits in my life that I can rely on. Movements like TWLOHA honor that pain is beautiful, and real, and occasionally infinite, but assert that it is something that should inspire art and perseverance rather than allowing sensitive souls to descend into the depths of despair. In the ten-plus years that I've battled, the world has made headway, but for every enlightened person there are 10 ignorant, destructive voices. We need to help to bolster the wrecked, the needy, the hopeless, and as we build gardens out of lifeless arms and legs they will gradually grow to bloom and flourish on their own, into the people they once were. They will regain that "something" they have lost.
I've just ordered this shirt after seeing it on a lovely former soulmate, one I distanced myself from during one of my "bouts." She and I have made efforts to reconcile recently, and I hope that our shared dedication to writing love on our arms will make that possible.
"My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken."

"Maybe I'm a kite that's flying high and random,
Dangling on a string..."

"My dear, we're slow dancing in a burning room."

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
~Emily Dickinson~

24 January 2010

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you

My head is filled with thoughts of Regent's England and men with manners, voices as caressing as a sigh...It seems that in my life I may have found my Mr. Wickham, but not my Mr. Darcy? My John Crawford, but not by Edmund? My Frank Churchill, but not my Mr. Knightley? Not to say that my past was faulty...my past was perfect, and that's why it's hard to let it go. But more the thought that something wondrous and lovely might come along, out of the dust and the shadows. (Thanks to darling Chesley for reminding me of this. I had forgotten...I still forget every few hours or so.) I'm currently watching the latest Masterpiece Theater adaptation of Emma, starring Romola Garai (I've always wondered if she's named after George Eliot's novel...) and Jonny Lee Miller. I love him. I loved him in Mansfield Park, I loved his soulful gaze on Eli Stone, and I love him here-- for proving Emma wrong that "men don't like girls who argue." Thank goodness, because then I, the one who questions and questions to no avail, would be discarded by society.
"I cannot make speeches, Emma": he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.--"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.--You hear nothing but truth from me.--I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.-- Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.-- But you understand me.--Yes, you see, you understand my feelings-- and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."

I tell myself that I need to remember my sparkle, despite everything, and to remember the beauty. I might have to look a little harder lately, but it's still there. I took these photos of some of the apartment decor to remind myself:
Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah they were all yellow,

I came along
I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called yellow

So then I took my turn
Oh all the things I've done
And it was all yellow.

21 January 2010

till now, I always got by on my own

To me, the scariest thing is not that he (exbf) and I are really over this time. It's the possibility that I won't find someone new, that I've lost my "chance." Yes, I've dated since, but every time I've found the process repulsive, and I've made an excuse for why things couldn't continue. I'm picky, and I don't want my pickiness to be my downfall. I just don't know how to be in this city, the heart of the good ol' Midwest, where there seem to be no people around my age, where people get married as soon as they leave college, where finding a sensitive, attractive Jewish guy is about as likely as an avalanche.
It's funny-- even though I swore I was okay, some of my coworkers suspected otherwise. "I'm fine," I said, over and over, "it's no different, just permanent this time. We need to preserve our friendship. Yeah, three years, but it was on and off. Yes, he knows me better than anyone. Yes, I can predict what he will order and the position he'll sleep in that night. But it's fine." I know I've said it before, but how do I build up from scratch? I never realized how much I counted on us eventually finding our way back to each other permanently. I feel like part of me has been yanked from my body.
I legitimately thought I would just go on, without any display of emotion or anxiety over change, until I misplaced my driver's license when I got home. I'd taken it off of my dresser and put it in my wallet, and then it was nowhere to be found. I searched everywhere-- my purse; between couch curtains; my car; the parking lot next to my car; coat pockets. Per exbf's suggestion, I then check the irrational places that I, of all people, would be likely to put an ID in a moment of lapsed attention-- the freezer, bathroom cabinets, lodged in spines of books, in my computer case, in my jewelry box. Nowhere. It was as if it had disappeared, and I had no recollection of where it could have travelled. Suddenly, the driver's license took on symbolic value, and I collapsed into tears-- who am I, I wondered. What do I have here, in Indiana, in a place where all I do is work and I'm surrounded by strip malls? How has my life shifted so much in the last few years? Agata and Valentina no longer sells heart-shaped pasta-- when did that happen? Exbf's apartment hasn't changed, but our relationship has. In DC my friends' lives go on, while I race to keep up remotely with engagements and parties and weeknight gatherings over cocktails and television. It was like I was the one who was lost, not just my license. I cried for what I'd lost and for what I feared I'd never find.
I don't know where my life stands right now, but I know that getting it back on track won't be as easy as getting another license (even though I have to re-take my written test). It will always be easier for exbf and harder for me, but I wish I had a solution for that; resignation is simply not good enough. It's just too easy to lose myself, to lose him, to lose myself because I've lost him and what I've counted on for the last three years.
And now it chills me to the bone.
But I want desperately to re-emerge, triumphant and in love and surrounded by beauty and satisfaction. I'd like to think it's like stardust-- you believe in it hard enough and it drops on your shoulders and suffuses your life in warm light.
"Then, after a while, I won't have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while."

Well, it kind of hurts when the kind of words you say
Kind of turn themselves into blades
And the kind and courteous is a life I've heard
But it's nice to say that we played in the dirt
Cause here, here we are, here we are
Here we are
We're still here
What a beautiful mess this is
It's like taking a guess when the only answer is "Yes"
Through timeless words and priceless pictures
We'll fly like birds not of this earth
And tides they turn and hearts disfigure
But that's no concern when we're wounded together
And we tore our dresses and stained our shirts
But its nice today. Oh the wait was so worth it.

"How perilous is it to choose not to love the life we're shown?"

18 January 2010

I know him so well...

After 3 years and 1 month (almost to the day)...
we've finally lowered that curtain for good.
"Looking back I could have played it differently
Learned about the man before I fell
But I was ever so much younger then
Now at least I know I know him well...
It took time to understand him
I know him so well."

(more on this at a later date. Soon. I'm sorry, dear readers, to not go into it all now, but I'm exhausted and my feelings on the subject are nebulous. But if I didn't post something at least, I knew that sleep would never come...)

06 January 2010

moons and junes and ferris wheels

Dear Joni Mitchell,

I ponder your given name: Roberta Joan Anderson. Roberta. You, my sweet wildflower, are not a Roberta. Robertas are practical, brunette, chocolate-eyed, with perhaps the vim of a teenager and the tenacity of a crusader. You are lithe, languid, like your songs...Joni suits you infinitely better. You have just a "little green" in your eyes, "pretty green" and "blue," "ink on a pin." You, my dear, are a lady of the canyon, a singer, a skater, a drifter, a seer, a cactus tree. No offense, no regrets to the coyote, but that ferocity, at least thrust outward, was never your trademark. A cool dark stone, the weight of lead, the weight of disappointment and dreams lost-- that is your only demon.
I wish I had your quiet strength, Joni, your teflon toughness (even though cacti hide fragile fruit underneath). But I wish that you had kept your stone, that toxic weight, to yourself. I don't need any enemies, let alone myself and my own foolish quest for perfection. What did you say? "Songs are like tattoos?" Well, so are expectations and swallowed words and 3 AM swirls of uncapturable thought. How I mourn that I lack your uncanny ability to speak the right words, and how I detest the knowledge that I am the only one who makes me stumble.
Perhaps I should grow my hair to be a bohemian veil, a shield of mystery, a beautiful obscurity to keep others out and my insights in. Maybe then I could have your bravery and conquer the anxiety I feel when I stand in front of a room and others await my wisdom with bated breath.
How did you stay so beautiful for so long, with so many cigarettes a day and so many lovers who broke your heart? Lately I look in the mirror and feel begrimed. I feel like that stone, like lead. How can I expect my thoughts to ascend skywards when my body sinks, sinks, sinks to the ground? Yes, I know that it's silly and shallow, but Joni, you were once a beauty queen. You know what female anxieties can be, and you were slender as sunshine with lips like tulip petals. I wish that life were simpler, that we could return to a time of styrofoam-cup-telephone lines and candy floss. But my heart is full and hollow...

Oh, I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones and sinking sand
Sometimes voices in the night will call me back again
Back along the pathway of a troubled mind
When forests rise to block the light that keeps a traveler sane
I'll challenge them with flashes from a brighter time

02 January 2010

We've only just begun...

Happy 2010, dear readers. I have good feelings about the upcoming decade (although not so good feelings for the upcoming teacher week, for which I'm woefully underprepared!), especially since I rang it in with my little Lu, a conversation about the role of art and memory, apple/cranberry/granola pancakes, cake towers, bubbly, a long lost kindred spirit, sheer black polka-dotted stockings, duplicate copies of The Virgin Suicides, vintage typefaces, a Taylor Swift dance-off, the first brush-off and classy escape, Victorian cocktails, new book recommendations, and a (albeit failed) pursuit of Mr. Pocket Square...

A story for another time, loves! Wishing you a year full of effervescence and peacock-colored splendor.