sludge (poem)

Ernest Hemingway, one of my longtime literary heroes, once said “write drunk, edit sober.” It’s one of my favorites of his many quotable one-liners, and one I take to heart possibly too often. 

write drunk edit sober

The following is a poem I wrote drunk, edited sober. I’m not entirely certain it’s finished, but I wanted to share it. Is a poem really ever finished? That’s a question I may never be able to answer. 

Sludge

it’s like sludge
the way the words build up in my bloodstream.
i feel them in my body,
but i can’t get them out.

i sit down with a notebook
and another
a third for good measure, and a word document
a pen between my trembling fingers,
ready to bleed.

but little comes out.

i down a shot of whiskey
then another
and another
and another and another and another

and another
until i lose count.

when i stop,
the bottle is lighter,
and my body is warm,
my cheeks flushed.

i hope the alcohol will melt the thick, gooey substance
lodged in my veins
so i can be free.

but it doesn’t.

it loosens the words so they run frantically
around my mind
searching for the exit
suffocating each other when they can’t find it.

they’re fighting over
which gets to escape the prison of my mind first.
which do i speak?
which do i keep locked away in hopes of a perfect moment
to facilitate their escape?

it’s deafening silence:
a blank page and a busy mind.

i drink more.
in attempt to silence the screaming
and avoid telling the stories that long to get out
but i cannot yet articulate.

unfortunately, whiskey is their liquid courage, too,

so I drag on
heavy
filled with words I cannot speak
and a mind I cannot silence.

write drunk edit sober 2
A more accurate depiction of 98% of my writing time.

Music and me: a love story

I was always drawn to music.

First, it was my way to communicate with my parents. Mom and I would turn up the volume and dance in the car. It allowed us to bond without stumbling through awkward conversation, and it kept me from asking questions she didn’t have answers to. We would jam out to Santana or Matchbox 20, and those times were always when I felt closest to her.

With dad, it became a game. I’ll give you a bag of m&ms or $10 if you can name this song and who sings it.  I always lost, but I now have a vast knowledge of the classics.

I was always the girl with music on. I still am. I pause conversations and don’t leave parking lots until I find the perfect song. I cannot stand silence. I always have to have something playing.

Sometimes I have to write in public where I am not in control of the playlist or I spend all of my valuable writing time searching for the perfect song to match whatever mood I’m in.

It isn’t that I’m picky, I’ll listen to anything someone recommends. My playlists range from country to Johnny Cash to Taylor Swift to Godsmack to Jason Isbell to 90s rock to Usher to Ed Sheeran to Augustana to Elvis to country to whatever is on the radio and so much more. I love everything, I just enjoy when the music fits my mood. I don’t understand people who stick strictly to one genre. No judgement, but I’m so all over the place with my music I couldn’t imagine narrowing my taste down.

In middle school, I had song lyrics written on paper and tacked on my walls. I wanted to be like my mom. When she was in high school, she had Aerosmith lyrics written on her wall in sharpie. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but it wasn’t worth the wrath of my step mom to copy her entirely. So instead I collaged my walls with other people’s words as I struggled to find my voice.

I would get in trouble at night because I’d sleep with the radio on just a touch too loud. My parents never wanted to hear Fall Out Boy at 2 a.m. as much as I did. I think that’s likely why they finally gave in and bought me an iPod. Then I could listen to whatever angsty shit I was into at the time, and they could sleep in peace.

I used to walk around the house with my headphones in singing along and jamming out. Happily in my own world. The same way I would read everywhere I went.

Music was an escape, a solace. In times when I was afraid to say how I felt, there was someone out there who had said it already. If I wasn’t ready to own my emotions, I could chalk it up to a song lyric I liked and deny my connection to it.

My dad had this big black CD case he kept underneath the TV full of things like Better than Ezra, Weezer and Dave Matthews. Much to his irritation (I was (am?) notoriously terrible for returning things I borrow), I borrowed it to add the music in my iTunes library.

“The Space Between” by Dave Matthews was the first song I really fell in love with. I heard it when I took the album from my dad’s CD case and played it on repeat for days. I got in a fight with my best friend and wrote the lyrics to that song on the back of a painting I did for her. I was trying to write out how I felt, but I couldn’t find it. Then there it was.

space between

That was the first song that hit me in that profound way. It was the first time I owned my connection to a song. It was the first time I realized the power of music. I’d loved it before, but that song made me realize just how much.

I eventually named my blog after it because I’m constantly feeling like I’m in spaces between things. Life, in a sense, is a series of spaces between. We just don’t realize it in the moment because it’s so easy to get caught up in how wildly important everything feels when it is staring you in the face.

That song changed my perspective on my relationship with music.

I use it to search for what I’m trying to say. Hence the constant playlist changing when I write. I realize that there are some things that others before me have said better. In most things, I’m a very visual person. I have to see things to understand them. Music takes me to a different place. Music opens the window to my mind so I can see what’s in there, what’s going on, what’s bothering me. Sometimes songs lead me to what I’m trying to say. Sometimes they say something so completely opposite of what I’m feeling that it clears up my confusion.

There have been times that I’ve tried to write about things or I’ve tried to explain things to people, and I almost want to piece together song lyrics and deliver it to them instead of working through the mud of trying to put my feelings into words. There are so many times that instead of having a conversation with someone, I just want to make them a playlist, and say “here. Listen. This is it.”

I usually have the music conversation with someone right when I first meet them. You can get to know a person pretty quickly based on what’s on their playlist.

I don’t know much about rhythm or melody. I don’t play any instruments. I can’t sing to save my life, as my daughter loves to point out. I was singing her to sleep the other night, and she said “mommy, stop it. You no sound good.” Once I was done comforting my bruised ego, I was just happy that she recognizes good music from bad music at two years old.

I may not be able to play it, but I love it. I don’t think you have to fully understand something (or someone for that matter) to love it. Or at least be entirely fascinated by it. Music moves through me. I can feel it pulsating through my body, and I can’t help but sway with it. I don’t need to see it for it to have an affect on me. It’s a force that I can’t deny. There have been countless times in my life where I’ve just blasted a favorite song and danced out all of my problems. It makes me feel something I can’t even explain.

I go see one of my best friends play every week, and it’s my favorite thing. He is wildly talented and captivates me and blows me away every time I watch him play. He has an ability to connect with people through his music, whether it’s covers or songs he’s written. I love when I can catch his eye, and he smiles, and I can see how complete he feels being up there and how much it means to him. That’s what I love about music. I love feeling connected to something or someone. I love the transparency that comes from people sharing their music with me.

I’m lucky to have such a talented friend and lucky that my always over-the-top enthusiasm hasn’t caused him to kick me out yet. (Go look him up on youtube, his name’s Zach Henderson. Or better yet: click here, I did the hard part for you.)

I love the way music  has the ability to take you to another place. I love how lost in my mind, in my daydreams, I get when I focus on the lyrics and the story of a song.

It’s the best escape and also roots me firmly to the earth. It doesn’t make sense, but if you love music or any art the way I do, you’ll understand.

Music makes me feel less alone in the world. It makes me feel close to people and close to something I cannot explain.

It’s gotten me through rough patches. It’s helped me find my own voice. It’s pulled me out of panic attacks and depressive episodes. It’s been loyal.

Music is like a time machine. I hear a song, and it takes me back to a specific moment. It takes me back to a way I felt. It takes me a while to actually write about situations I’ve gone through. Mostly because it takes time to process/let the stories unfold before I can tell them. However, as I work through things I’m always listening to songs and applying them to situations. Then when I go back and write about things, I listen to those playlists and am pulled back to that emotional place, and I can create my own words.

It’s a love I cannot deny, and that will never cease.

Hit me with your recommendations, I always need new stuff.

Mom, I forgive you

Dear Mama,

We’ve worked a tremendous amount on our relationship over the years, and I am so proud of how far we’ve come. I used to dread Mother’s Day because it was a reminder of how awful things were between us. I’m glad it isn’t that way anymore.

While we’ve talked a lot and had many a heart-to-heart over the past year or two, and especially in the past few months, but there’s one thing I don’t think I’ve said in such plain language.

Mom, I forgive you.

I forgive you for all of the times you weren’t there. I forgive you for the birthdays passed without a call. I forgive you for the visits you missed. I forgive you for the times your actions and decisions made me feel unimportant and disposable. I forgive you for the times I needed you, but you didn’t have the slightest clue how to be there for me.

I forgive you for the times you would change your phone number and forget to tell me. I forgive you for the letters and packages that got lost in the mail. I forgive you for the hurtful things you’ve said.

I forgive you for all of the things you are still so angry about.

I know you’re still mad at yourself for a lot of things, but I need you to know that I’m not mad at you anymore. There is no anger for the way my childhood went. Yes, there were parts that were shitty. There are parts that I wish never happened. No one wants to have grown up primarily without their mother around for what (at the time) felt like her choice. I understand now a lot of the reasons that I didn’t understand before.

I know you were operating from a place of love and doing the best you had with the cards you were dealt. Maybe looking back you can see places you could have improved, but that’s just the nature of life.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

I forgive you so I need you to forgive yourself.

You are here now, and that is what is important.

Thank you for that. Thank you for turning things around. Thank you for forgiving me for my mistakes and letting me in.

Thank you for allowing me to watch the world break you. Not because I enjoyed seeing you hurt. Not in the slightest. Watching you struggle and be in pain has nearly destroyed me countless times. Thank you because watching you build yourself up into the strong, radiant, beautiful woman you are has had a profound impact on me. If you can come back from the things you have been through, then I know that I, too, will defeat the things that haunt me.

I’m proud of you.

You are an incredible example of strength. I hope to be even half as strong as you are, wonder woman.

Thank you for always being open and honest in showing me your flaws. Thank you for being quick to admit your wrong-doings –and even for occasionally admitting you’re terrible at admitting your faults because like me, you think you have to pretend you have it all figured out.

Thank you for calling me on my faults and for recognizing where they come from you.

Thank you for showing me that it is okay to screw up. The true test of character comes from how well you bring yourself back from your mistake.

Thank you for allowing me to learn from your mistakes but also understanding that I have to make my own, too.

I know all you ever wanted was for me to be better than you, and I’m sorry that in so many ways I am not. I know I’m reckless, overzealous, oversensitive and frequently very one-track-minded. You are quick to call me on that when it is getting in the way of what’s important, and I appreciate it.

But I never want to be a disappointment to you.

Thank you for knowing who I am and helping me to become the best version of myself rather than trying to make me into someone I’m not. Thank you for reading my writing and loving most of it, but also for not being afraid to tell me when it sucks. Thank you for encouraging all of my creative pursuits.

Thank you for all of the nurturing and mothering you’ve given the past few years. Thank you for being a steady presence in my life lately. It means more than any showy, over the top gesture ever could.

Thank you for being there when I took a sledgehammer to my life and sat lost among the wreckage of everything I thought I would be. Thank you for not being disappointed that I’d failed on such a grand scale. You were just there to help me see how to be rid of some pieces and fill in the gaps with new, better things.

Thank you for reminding me that I’m stronger than I think despite how broken and weak I feel.

Thank you for kicking me in the ass when I get too whiny and emotional and need to just get shit done. Even if I cry in a corner about it for a little while, I do appreciate you and your directness.

Most of all, thank you for loving Sophie. Thank you for being there for her. For doing her hair for school everyday, for making her lunches and doing crafts with her. Thank you for spending time with her in ways you didn’t, and couldn’t, with me.

I was worried it would hurt, but it has healed more than I ever thought possible.

I’m so grateful for the relationship and the love between the two of you. And for all of your help.

mama

I love you, mama. Our relationship hasn’t always been perfect, but I wouldn’t want anyone else as my mom.

Thank you for the laughs, for (sort of) dying my hair purple even when you had an allergic reaction. For car jam sessions, coffee dates and hugs. Thank you for passing down your love of music and writing. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for the qualities you’ve instilled in me: strength, creativity, enthusiasm for life and honesty. You’ve taught me to always stand on the side of the truth because the truth will set you free.

Thank you for teaching me to be self-reliant even if it has been the hardest lesson to learn.

Thank you for being a complete (adorable) dork, and for being just as cheesy and excitable as me. Thank you for giving me your smile and your big heart.

I love you much, mama. Happy mother’s day.

Love,

Sunshine

Run away, let go

My mom told me I need to hang some stuff on my walls so it looks like I’m staying put. She took my suit cases from my room, and every time we argue, she tells me she’s afraid I’ll run away.

I never realized I was so much of a flight risk.

I have deeply rooted attachment issues. Usually my friends pick on me (lovingly, mostly) because I get attached quickly. To jobs to things to people to boys who won’t give me the time of day.

I don’t know how to let go. I stayed in a marriage that was so obviously wrong for so many reasons for far too long.

I’ve spent months chasing a boy who doesn’t have the decency to call me back or own up to how he says he feels about me.

I’ve bent over backwards for friends who wouldn’t do the same for me.

I hold on until the bridge is torched. I was talking to Emma the other day about a particular situation and I told her “I either need this to go somewhere or completely blow up in my face.” I’ve been told I go to extremes, and while that’s probably true, there are few things I hate more than not knowing where I stand with someone.

Yet I keep poking the bear. I answer every sporadic text and allow people to come in and out of my life as they please. I hate it. It makes me feel weak, one way I promised myself not to feel again as much as I can help it.

The wound can’t heal because I keep slicing it open. Over. and over. and over. and over. and over. It’s bled dry, scabbed over, scared and reopened more times than I care to admit. I’m a little ashamed of it, but someone recently reminded me there’s nothing wrong with a little shame.

I don’t know how to let this go. I don’t do well without closure. I don’t do well not knowing what someone expects or wants from me. It makes me crazy(ier).

Why keep coming back if you’re just going to disappear without a trace again? Why can’t you just let me go? I have about a million questions that will remain unanswered.

I’ve come to that conclusion about 100 times, but somehow I keep having to circle back to convincing myself that’s okay.

I can’t let go. I keep trying to walk away, I ran for miles, but I keep getting pulled back. I’m given an inch of hope, and I take miles and miles.

But I can’t do it anymore. It’s unfair to me. It’s unfair to him.

Yet I’ve never been one to be able to squash my feelings. They won’t go away. I want to bury them in an underwater treasure chest guarded by mermaids and a sea witch, but that’s not how I operate.

Someone told me it’s beautiful, the way I feel everything so deeply. The way I feel pain and joy so intensely.

I told them it sucks, and it is an ability I would gladly give them.

I don’t think I can handle it. I don’t think I can handle all of this emotion because I don’t know what to do with it.

I’m not equipped to handle it.

My body is tired, my brain is a mess, my heart is sore. I’m trying to write it all out, but nothing makes any sense.

I’m sitting, spending another night waiting for a call that will never come. Evidently it’s too much to have a conversation about things. God forbid I ask you to take me out of the back pocket you’ve been keeping me in because I deserve to be so much more than your dirty little secret.

I wish I was as much of a flight risk as my mom thinks I am. I wish I could convince him that he could lose me. That instead of taking care of other people and trying to fulfill the roles that other people want me to fill, I could look out for my own feelings and my own heart first.

It should be so simple, really. But it isn’t.

I had a heart to heart with a good friend yesterday, and he said something that’s been stewing around in my brain since then. “Things are very black and white, but the reasons behind them are convoluted.”

He’s so right. Things are quite simple, but emotion and human nature make them far more complicated than they should be.

I shouldn’t let things get to me so much, but I can’t help it.

I want to be good at running away from things. In some ways, I am. I’m an expert. Once I do decide to let go, I burn bridges. I cut people off. I shut people out. Just look at how many times I’ve packed up and moved in the last few years.

Running.

As much as I obsess over things, I also avoid them. In a different heart to heart with the same friend, I told him I’m the queen of avoidance and an expert at running away from my problems.

I spend a lot of time trying to pretend I’m chill and that things don’t get to me, but I spend double the amount of time in my head internally panicking about everything.

It’s a difficult balance.

His response was probably perfect, that running away from anything will kill me eventually and not to be stupid about it. It’s nice having someone in my life who understands how my brain works, doesn’t judge and completely gets it. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a friend like that. People you connect with on another level don’t come around often.

In fact, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a fantastic group of people. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such incredible friends, but man do I have some mad love for you guys.

You’d think with all these lovely people around, I’d care less about the ones who treat me like shit.

Hearts don’t work that way. As Emma said, hearts are a little slow sometimes.

I’m gonna need my heart to pick up the pace because I’m ready to run away from this situation for good.

Don’t worry mama, only metaphorically. I’m staying put, and I’ll hang some things on my walls soon.

The why behind my words

My notebooks read like an ode to all the boys (and girls) who’ve broken my heart. Not a single one of them deserve it, but neither do I deserve to live with all of this hurt eating away at my insides.

So I sum up whole relationships, quick love affairs and broken friendships in a series of lines that cut people to their core –that give them that heart-dropping, gut-wrenching feeling we all crave but never admit.

I write it out, cry it out and move on.

My words will break your heart.

I’m the girl who will write you a three page love letter. I’ll write you lines about how beautiful things could be, even if they never end up that way. I’ll show you how wonderful I think you are, because I think everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. I’ll mean every word because I don’t see much point in writing something if it isn’t the truth.

I’ll write it even if I’m certain you’ll never read it because it isn’t for you, it’s for me. There isn’t room in my body for all of the words that come through my brain in a single day. So I write it down.

I write because when he asked me how I felt, what I wanted and what he could do to make me happy, I couldn’t tell him. All that came out of my mouth were broken phrases, a series of I don’t know’s (even though I did) and some inaudible noises.

There he was, willing to listen to me word vomit and ramble as long as I needed, and I couldn’t get it out.

But it’s on paper. I wrote pages explaining what I wanted, what I needed, what I craved. I do know, I’m just afraid to say things out loud because then I can’t take them back. If it’s on paper, I can rip it to shreds, burn it or lock it away and pretend it never happened.

If it’s only on paper you never read, you can’t break my heart. That, I think, is what I’m most afraid of.

I write because on paper is the only place I’m not afraid to say how I feel. I feel invincible instead of fragile.

IMG_3887
I write because my heart is a strong and fragile as a wild flower. If I don’t get the feelings out, they’ll destroy me.

I write because I thought I’d said it all. I thought I’d told him everything on my mind, but my words and feelings still caught him by surprise.

Some people write to remember. They pen their stories so they are committed to paper and won’t leave them.

I write to forget.

I write because there are images planted in my mind that won’t go away. I write because I’ll replay the same story or line in my mind on a repeating reel for days until I write it down. I write because if not I get obsessive. I’m easily consumed by thoughts and words and feelings, and if I don’t get them out of me in some way I’m certain they’ll drown me one day.

An overabundance of words or my caffeine addiction will be the death of me, I swear.

I write because if I don’t my words are written across my face.

I write because I don’t want perfect strangers to read me like a book. Mostly because they’re usually right, and I’d like to think I can keep some air of mystery about me, even if it is the ever so slightest bit.

I occupy this strange space of not having anything to hide but also not wanting to be so easy to figure out.

I write because it hurts when I don’t.

Physically. My hands get fidgety, and my throat feels like it’s closing and there’s a pit at the bottom of my stomach and a fist clenching my heart.

I write because nothing beats that high. Not alcohol. Not drugs. Not anything. Nothing can compare to the way it feels when I get in the zone and the words come out, and I know I’m on to something.

If not on to something, at least releasing something that has gotten far to comfortable existing within my mind.

Beyond that, nothing beats when someone connects with my words. I love knowing when people read my work. The stats on wordpress let me know that my word vomit reaches a lot of people, but only a select few let me know they’ve read it. Nothing beats getting a comment or a message that something I wrote resonated with someone. I want people to realize they aren’t alone, and we all deal with the same shit day in and day out.

I write because it makes me feel like an unstoppable force.

I write because I don’t know how to cope with life without it. It’s the only thing that keeps me standing on my own two feet when the world feels like it’s collapsing in on me.

Because it’s the only way I’m ever able to figure out what I want.

Flannery O’Connor once said “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

I write it all down because I know I’m an intense person. I feel things deeply, which is both a blessing and a curse because the people around me rarely do.

I write because I know I’ll scare people away if it all comes out out loud. Worse than that, I’ll push them away if I leave it all inside.

I write because I think I’ll fall over and die if I ever stop.

On relationships, breakthroughs and happy times

Lately I’ve been working on putting smaller pieces of larger stories together. I’ve written about this weird block I’m working through, and that’s a big part of it.

I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding telling stories or processing things or dealing with things, and now that I am, I’m trying to figure out how it all fits together. First in a collection of poems, but on a larger scale, how these events have changed my life and shaped who I am in smaller ways.

The large ones are obvious, it’s the smaller shifts I like to explore.

There’s a saying I hear often (that I’m likely going to butcher) that says something along the lines of “you don’t know the important moments are important until later.” It’s rather obvious, but it’s interesting watching that idea manifest itself in really tangible ways in your own story.

I’ve been writing about Greece a lot. I always knew that going to Greece would change my life, but I never though it would have occurred this way.

That trip was really the moment (collection of moments rather) when I decided that my marriage was over. I didn’t look at it like that then because I was still trying to convince myself there was some semblance of hope that we could fix things, but there wasn’t.

My favorite moments of that trip were the ones where I was alone. Then there’s dirt house story I told here. Then there’s when I was at the most beautiful beach in the world, floating in the clearest, bluest water I’d ever seen, and I still felt empty. I knew at that moment it was as good as it was going to get. Going to Greece was always my life dream, and Chris made it happen, but I still couldn’t be happy.

I’m sure he felt as though he’d given me everything he could give, but it would be unfair to speak for him.

I knew then, though, that if I couldn’t be happy in that space, nothing about that life was for me. I left shortly after that, but the way it all unfolded just kind of came together for me recently.

Since then, though, I’ve been paying extra attention to small moments.

I went out with some friends last week, and we had a really good time. I’m really fortunate to have met some of the best people since I moved to Florida, and we had fun.

We took this picture (below) the other night, and I love it for a few reasons.

FAM.jpg

First, that lip color, though. I’m obsessed. Second, do you see how amazing the people I’m with are? They’re freaking great.

Mostly it’s the fact that I look so genuinely happy in this photo. Because I am. It isn’t just the tequila/sangria, I promise.

Let’s rewind.

Earlier this evening, I’d had a really dumb situation happen with a not-so-dumb boy. Sort of a misunderstanding, sort of a moment where I had to check myself to make sure I’m not selling myself short like I frequently do. Boundaries and expectations in relationships are freaking hard to navigate, even if things are super casual.

Anyhow, he hurt my feelings, but instead of going home and crying about it, I went out with my friends and had a seriously good time dancing all of our troubles away.

For once I didn’t make other people more important, I just took care of myself.

Judging from the three texts I received from said boy while I was in the club, he knew he upset me fairly immediately. It didn’t matter.

Funny, though, how people only want to show you that they care when they think you’re halfway out the door. I wish more people would appreciate the people they have in their lives while they’re there.

Anyhow, said boy and I worked it out. I didn’t write this to bash on him, he’s a good guy. Anyone who let’s me ramble/overthink to them in a series of novella-length text messages usually ends up good in my book. But we’ll see how this story unfolds. Who the hell really knows.

I wrote this to point out, once again, how far things have come. Brenna spent a lot of time with me last fall when the actions of one particular jerk (who will remain unnamed because evidently I’m only good enough behind closed doors) would ruin our nights out.

I’d end up a wreck. Crying in a bathroom or on a bar stool because some idiot wouldn’t pay attention to me. Because he decided that he could pop in and out of my life as he so chose, and I let him. Always waiting there at his beck and call whenever he needed an ego boost.

Ew.

I won’t do that again. I won’t be that for someone ever again. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell when you fall into that role.

Hindsight is 20/20. My regular vision…well, I should probably wear my glasses more often.

Anyways, I did not end up in a puddle of tears in some gross bar bathroom. That, my friends, is progress.

That, my friends, is me taking care of me. And that is how you get a genuine smile.

It was a small moment, one night out with those fabulous people in (hopefully) a series of them. But it did not go down as “the night Michelle ended up crying over some dumb dude.” Instead it’s “the night Saqif showed us all up on the dance floor.”

It was a small moment, but those are the ones that make all the difference.