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. 

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Writing, blocks and the woods

I went to the woods today, and I didn’t come out overwhelmed with inspiration.

Normally, I go in with a million thoughts swirling around in my grey matter, and come out with dirt stained pages of ideas, snippets, new directions for existing projects, lines that may fit places and just an overall clarity about life.

Today I went in without much of importance on my mind, and came out feeling kind of bleh.

It’s just been that kind of week, honestly.

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It’s still so beautiful, even if it didn’t clear my block.

I’m coming down off a crazy creative high. I rode the wave, got all of the things in my head out on paper, and now the wave has deposited me back on the shore with a lot of stuff to work through and not a lot of motivation to work through it.

I have pieces of poems stashed in random notebooks, some poems that right now are two, but are likely different drafts of the same piece. I have some I’ve literally cried over because I can’t get right. Some I’ve spilled beer on because I’m frustrated (and also clumsy).

This is the time when writing feels like work. When the words don’t come smoothly sailing out of my pen and on to paper. When I don’t feel like a creative genius. When I feel like everything that comes out sucks and is worthless.

I hate times like this.

It’s not even writer’s block, it’s…editor’s block? It’s a lack of motivation? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what it is. All I know is that it’s testing me.

Testing my resolve to make this work and make something of myself.

That’s why I went to the woods. It’s my happy place. The place I can usually find clarity and direction and all of the things I need to be successful.

Today I just discovered I’m really dehydrated, and that hiking three miles in direct sunlight with no shade was not my brightest idea. I miss my mountains terribly.

The trees in the woods I hiked in today valued their personal space too greatly. I didn’t feel enclosed in a comforting blanket of branches and leaves and Spanish moss. Today I felt exposed. I felt like anything I stopped on the trail to write down would be instantly out there in the universe not simply scrawled on a dirt-stained page of my notebook.

I have a strict no music rule when I go into the woods. I like to connect with myself, connect with nature, and let’s be honest….listen to know if any snakes/gators/bears/cougars might be trying to plan a sneak attack.

Anyways, today I didn’t even have thoughts swirling around in my head. I didn’t have anything I was overthinking about or anything to even get out. So I turned on the music to simply have something to occupy my brain other than when this steaming hot, seemingly never-ending hike would be over.

It was that kind of hike.

It sucked.

I’ve word vomited everything. I’ve said all that needs to be said so now it’s just working with it.

I don’t know how to do that. I’m good at the initial dump, and I love the catharsis that comes from that. Once it’s all out there? I’m not good at that. I’m not good at doing something about things, or in this context, polishing poems and other pieces.

It’s an interesting space to be in creatively. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work it still takes after I have everything down on paper. The projects I’m working on still have so far to go. It’s terrifying and exhausting.

The woods didn’t work for me today, but maybe that isn’t their job. Maybe I need to stop looking to so many outside things for motivation and validation in writing and probably a lot of other parts of my life, too.

But that’s a different story for a different time.

If anyone has any motivating tips, playlists, suggestions, etc., send them my way. I’m always open to suggestions!

Forgetting Lane (Poem)

There are some people who come into your life, and your heart, with little intention of staying.

Yet somehow, people like me don’t know when to let go.

Forgetting Lane

I had forgotten.
Maybe not completely,
but I had traveled far enough down forgetting lane to know it wasn’t easy,
but it was a road I could navigate
if I had to.

Then there you were.
You jumped out from behind a curve
when I was least expecting it.

“Remember me?”

You said you felt it was time
to come out of hiding —
you didn’t like running from me anyways.
You said you missed me and you were sorry.

No excuses,
just an honest apology,
and I could see the remorse behind those blue eyes
that make my heart melt and my knees weak
everytime I see them.

Oh how easily you can suck me right in
and put me under your spell.

Then there we were
sitting in your car laughing and holding hands.
You wouldn’t let go
even when you struggled to shift gears.
You held me tightly,
the smile I love never fading from your face.

We bonded over the smallest things —
a love of road trips with the windows down and the music turned up,
mountain time and our matching cameras.

I fell into your bed,
plush with pillows,
as if I’d been there a thousand times before.

You laid there with me
kissing me,
holding me,
nestling your head between my shoulder and my neck,
arms draped over me as if we were always meant to be there.

I traced the outline of the tattoo over your heart
wondering if you knew I never wanted to hurt you,
only be there for you.
But the walls you built to guard it
are damn near indestructible
and I’ve been chiseling away at them for so long.
Everytime I get close,
you shut me out again,
building them higher and higher.

We are miles and miles apart now,
I the one who ran away this time,
but forgetting lane has gotten tougher to navigate,
and I can’t shake the way I feel about you.

Gentleman (Poem)

Despite the fact that I have notebooks and notebooks full of material, I rarely post poetry on here. I usually keep it to word vomit/life updates, but lately I’ve been feeling the urge to publish other things.

I’m used to getting personal on here, but this is a different kind of personal. Here is a poem about the time I learned to confuse sex with love. About how people aren’t always who we think they are. About when I learned that not everyone values transparency and honesty the way I do.

Anyhow, I’ll stop rambling and let the poem speak for itself.

Gentleman

She called you a gentleman,
but I didn’t get that side of you
when you fucked me on the driver’s’ seat of your car.
You moaned my name
and told me I was the best you ever had.

Your hands traced my skin and gripped my body
As we moved together.
The tight space between my back and the steering wheel
Forced us to be closer,
Breathing the same air.
Our respective moans swirled together in a
Steamy fog of passion and lust.

You told me you wanted all of me, but
You only wanted my body.
I gave it to you easily,
Crawling out of my bed and into the shower
In the middle of the night
To get in your car
For a quicky and a heart to heart
In a nearby parking lot.

You weren’t a gentleman when you flicked your lights off
Before pulling into my driveway.
A condom in your glove box
Ready to take what you wanted
Knowing I was willing to give you my heart.

There was nothing gentle about you
When you pulled my hair
And claimed me as your own
Before disappearing for weeks at a time
Tossing me to the side like I was nothing.

You weren’t a gentleman
when you said we would go out
And never had the decency to call and cancel.
I waited by the phone,
Desperate for your name to pop up and give me something
When I’d given you everything.
How gentlemanly of you to lie to my face
Time and time again
When all I asked for was a bit of honesty
Even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

How stupid of me
To make excuses for you
Time and time again.

You weren’t a gentleman
When you let me hand you my heart —
Words scrawled out across a page as neatly as I could manage
Then folded into thirds
And handed to you as I hugged you goodbye.

You, the gentleman,
Couldn’t even be bothered to read it.
You’ve left it crumpled in a box under your bed
To make friends with dust bunnies and other forgotten things.

She called you a gentleman,
But you were anything but gentle with my heart.

The ocean, love and holding back

The ocean and I will always be the best of friends.

I throw myself into its waiting arms with reckless abandon, like an overeager lover.

Overeager, overwhelming, over dramatic, over enthusiastic, too much. You name it, I’ve been called it. I love fast. I love hard. I know it, I try to calm it. But calming my desire, my need, to love others deeply, truly, wildly, is like trying to calm the ocean’s waves.

Impossible, and quite honestly, a stupid thing to attempt.

I spend a lot of time at the ocean now that it is 45 minutes from my house. (In case you missed it, I moved to Florida a month ago. Despite the numerous tearful goodbyes I said, it seems I sort of left without announcing it. Anyhow, now you know).

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The ocean and I have rekindled our love affair and man is it exhilarating.

The ocean may be the only thing I’ve ever loved that hasn’t let me down. The only thing I can throw myself into and know that it will always catch me.

The ocean may toss me around a little bit. I may tumble within a wave or have my legs scraped up by the sand on its floor, but it also supports me. It is also the only place I feel entirely free. It is the only place I don’t have to worry about my joints failing me. It is the only place I can let go of my need for control.

I can hand control over to the ocean and just relax.

My body is supported by the water, and I move easily over the gentle waves.

When the rough ones come, I throw myself into them, back arched moving along with the currents.

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I’m unafraid.

I’ve crashed and burned enough times. My heart has been bruised, beaten, taken for granted, drug through the mud and left washed up on the shore enough times that I know I can handle it.

I know that whatever happens, I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself just fine.

None of the bull shit I’ve been through has taught me to be guarded. None of it has hardened my heart the way people tell me it will.

I’m only 22, there’s still time, but I’m afraid to see what it would take for me to build walls the way others do.

I guess I’m just not afraid to risk it all for love. I’m not afraid to love all the pieces of someone. The thing about me is that whether friend or more than that, I want to see the dark places of people. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to know what they’re passionate about. I love watching someone light up when they talk about what they love. I love being able to assure people that their crazy is lovable. People are flawed, and I think we oftentimes forget that it’s okay to be that way.

I don’t want “perfect,” I’ve been there, tried that, didn’t bother to get the T-shirt, and we all saw where that got me.

The perfect life, the perfect relationship isn’t all its cracked up to be.

I don’t want that. Never have.

I think that for me, I would just eventually like to be with someone who gets that we all have baggage. We all have a past and things that hurt us and things that changed us. I guess I just want someone to accept that about me and understand that I’m willing to accept that about them.

I don’t know why I’m word vomiting all over the place right now. I don’t know what the point of writing all this is. There was just a little voice in my head telling me to word vomit.

I’ve been blocked because I’ve been avoiding my feelings. Well, sort of. I don’t know that I’m actually capable of avoiding my feelings.

I’ve been avoiding writing them down. I’ve been avoiding putting these stories to paper because I’m worried about hurting people.

How dumb is that? I’m worried about hurting people who had no regard for me. Who knew me, who knew how my heart works and shit on me anyways.

Seriously, I’m too sensitive for my own good. I care far too much.

I often wonder if there is even anyone else out there who gets it? Or am I just this crazy, oversensitive anomaly that is destined to end up with a broken heart over and over again?

Who the fuck knows.

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Anyways, there are a million things that I’ve wanted to write. A million words to put on paper. A thousand stories to tell. They’re trying to claw their way out of me. My hand itches every time I pick up a pen.

But I haven’t told them because I’m too worried about other people’s feelings. My tears have stained numerous pages as I try to protect people who usually never even gave me the time of day.

Fuck it.

I’m sensitive, but I’m strong. I’m loving, but I’m done with bull shit. I’m done with ghosting, pulling on heart strings and dishonesty.

So I return time and time again to my lover the ocean. I come back to the water to remember that life is hard. Life will knock you on your ass hundreds of times, but strength lies in your ability to get back up and keep fighting and keep loving.

And usually things are worth the risk.

I’ve been told that I need to get a thicker skin, that I need to stop being so willing to let people in.

That might be true, but I don’t think I’d be me anymore if I stopped feeling everything so intensely.

I’ve worked too hard to regain my sense of self in the last year to ever let that be taken from me again.

“Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” –Ed Sheeran

You’re crazy, but you’re also sane

Here I am. Yet again, surrounded by boxes and half-packed suit cases, trying to sort through the piles of clothes, books and toys to pack them away.

Again.

I’ve moved five times in the last two years. Five. Not counting the three times we switched hotel rooms in the four months we lived in Virginia.

Five times.

I should be an expert at this by now. I should have a method to the madness of moving, but I don’t.

I don’t have a method to much of what I do in life. I have a restless spirit, almost to the point of recklessness. I’m a wanderer, physically and mentally. I day dream more than the average person, and I’m frequently wishing I were somewhere else. I can’t sit still to save my life so here I am, packing. Again.

My books and notebooks are off their precisely organized shelves and packed neatly into boxes. They are usually the only things I pack with any semblance of care. Seeing my journals filled with the stories, thoughts, mistakes, regrets and dreams of the past few months (or years) in a box always has an interesting affect on me.

Most of the time I feel like a complete mess. Once everything is packed though, and the physical parts of my life are put away, I can’t help but hope that maybe the less tangible parts of my life can be that organized. Doubtful, but a girl can dream.

I know it is time to have new experiences to fill more notebooks with.

It’s time for a new chapter. Again.

There is something exhilarating about starting over. New opportunities, new challenges. I know this next step will lead me to some great places. There are quite a number of good things coming my way, I can feel it.

Still, it is hard to leave other things behind. There are people I will miss more than I know how to handle. Some I know will still be around, their loyalty has been proven time and time again. I’m grateful to have friends who don’t care about my geographic location.

Others, well, I worry. I worry that not being here means those relationships will end. They likely will, and that means they weren’t meant for me anyways, but they aren’t things I’m ready to let go of.

I’m big on closure, and there are some things that will feel unfinished.

I’m still trying to convince myself that is okay.

My fear about this next step comes from my lack of a back up plan. In every scary step I’ve taken, I’ve had a clear “If plan A doesn’t work out, then I will…” So as much as I’ve felt like I’m diving into things head first, I’ve always known what I would do if it didn’t work out. My issues stem more from a lack of confidence or courage to act on those plans.

This time, I don’t have a back up plan. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t get things to work out. On the one hand, I have every confidence that I will figure it out. On the other, trying to be okay with uncertainty is a constant process.

I feel very Rory Gilmore in the revival, except I know where (most of) my underwear is, and I (unfortunately) don’t have a super attractive international lover. Man, would I be less upset if I had Logan Huntzberger in my back pocket.

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Scratch that, I would be happier if I had Jess Mariano to remind me that I’m still a contender. 

I rambled about this to my lovely friend Eden earlier today. She told me that my uncertainty shows I’m a mature and sane adult.

“Mature and sane?” I questioned. “Those aren’t usually how people describe me.”

Her response?

“I mean girl, you cray. But you’re also sane.”

She’s right. I’m cray. I keep thinking I need to tame myself, to “get my shit together.” I don’t even know what that would look like. I keep thinking that maybe if I were less restless I would be happier. That if I didn’t let people in so easily I would be happier. That if I got a better job or a retirement fund or something that I would be happier.

Fuck that. 

The people in my life love me despite my crazy. I will forever be grateful to them and will constantly search for ways to show them just how much I love and appreciate them.

I have always had this need for outside approval. I can’t do anything without running it past a panel of people. I either do what they say, or I do something because they told me not to, and I felt like I needed to prove to them that I’m a grown ass woman who makes her own decisions.

Neither of those are good ways to make decisions. Doing anything based solely on anyone else hasn’t gotten me far in life. In fact, it made me completely lose my sense of self. I’m just starting to get it back, and I’ll be damned if I hand it over to anyone else again.

The past month I holed up. I didn’t drink. I didn’t go out. I hardly saw anyone, and I didn’t reach out much to talk or catch up.

It was just me and my notebooks (and Sophie, of course). I needed clarity. I had decisions to make and things to figure out.

Usually, I would feel terribly lonely and anxious. I actually enjoyed the alone time quite a bit.

For one of the first times, it is nice to feel like I am doing what I need and not what other people need from me. I suppose I’ve been doing that a lot over the past few months, but it is nice that it feels like a new normal and not just a whim I followed.

I’m so tired of taking better care of others than I do for myself. I always talk about how I love big, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes people aren’t deserving of it, and I have to realize that taking my love back doesn’t make me a bitch. It just means I’ve learned to love myself as much as I love others.

That’s another story for another time.

All I know right now is that it’s okay. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. It’s all gonna be okay.

Poetry, dates and coming home

I took myself on a date tonight. Make up, clean pants, brushed hair, favorite lipstick color and all.

It is part of my effort to be more comfortable doing things alone. Too often I skip out on things because I don’t have anyone to go with, and I don’t have anyone to drag begrudgingly along anymore.

I’m learning to enjoy my own company. It is uncomfortable don’t get me wrong, but I’m actually really glad I went out by myself tonight.

N.C. poet laureate Shelby Stephenson was speaking at the coffee shop downtown so I figured I would go listen to what he had to say and hear him read some of his poetry.

There is something magical about listening to a poet read their own work. He read with such enthusiasm and confidence. I hope one day to write things I am that proud of.

I’m not used to doing things alone so I assumed I would end up a wall flower among the gallery portraits in the crowded cafe. Attendees included groups of old friends, fellow writers and creative writing students from local university, obviously there out of a class obligation judging by their discussion of ‘the assignment’ on the evening.

Right before the event began, a table in the very center opened up. Quite the juxtaposition from the position I thought I would occupy. I sat down and was shortly joined by an older couple rushing to snag a table before Stephenson began to speak.

The husband was a fiction writer and an old friend of Stephenson’s. Ironically enough, my table mate wrote fiction because he couldn’t find his rhythm in poetry. I told him that I gravitated toward poetry because I couldn’t find my voice in fiction.

We chatted for just a few minutes, but it was nice. It was interesting having to define myself to a stranger. This person knew nothing about me, had simply sat down with me for lack of another option.

I didn’t quite know what to say when they asked even the most basic of questions. I have spent the past few months rebuilding and regaining my sense of self, but this might have been the first time I had to introduce myself to and make small talk with someone who had no background knowledge of me.

It was fun being able to tell them I write. Maybe if I say it enough times to enough people I will start to really believe it’s true. Lord knows I’ve been working hard at it, submitting all over the place and surely developing a case of carpal tunnel due to my incessant need to write everything by hand the first go round.

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The woods will always be my happy place. 

Stephenson started out talking about the idea of “home” or where you come from. He stumbled over his words as he tried to sum it up, and I couldn’t help but nod my head in response. How does one sum up where they come from in a meaningful way?

I have no idea. The concept of home is one I mull over quite often in my writing but don’t know if I share often.

I was struck by his words, or lack thereof, in that moment. All I really knew was that I felt a strong connection to this place. This tiny little town that we all couldn’t wait to leave, yet many of us returned to even after we spread our wings a little.

There is a force as strong as gravity that pulls us back. Maybe it’s toxic, and we are all just crazy, as one of my friends so often says. Or maybe there really is something magical about this place, something deeper than the surface that can’t quite be explained.

My heart hurt as I thought about leaving it. Hickory was the only place I wanted to come back to when I left Germany. I couldn’t imagine finding myself and rebuilding anywhere else. There was a pull to this place I couldn’t deny even though my family left years ago.

I’ve been back for a few months now, and despite the love I have for this strange place, I know it is time to go.

I rediscovered myself. I cut ties. I picked up the pieces of myself that I left here, and I claimed them as my own. I learned how to be defined by my values, strengths, weaknesses and interests rather than by my ties to another.

I cultivated friendships with people who were quick to remind me that I don’t need them. That while there is a lot of love, it isn’t a love of necessity. It is a love that is not conditional to my geographic location.

I needed to come back here to collect myself, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay.

Sophie and I are off to the next adventure in a few weeks. Packing up and moving and uprooting our lives yet again is terrifying, but it is the right thing to do. The sunshine state is calling us, and good things are coming.

I can feel it.

Do you want to live in a dirt house with me?

A story about the time a silly question I asked to pass time on a long car ride made me question everything. 

“Do you want to live in a dirt house with me?”

I asked you this as we drove through the mountains in Greece last summer. We were going clear across the island to a beach I found on the internet that was supposed to be absolutely incredible (it was).

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Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece

We got a taste of a little bit of everything the island had to offer on that trip: the beach, the mountains the incredible canyon, the cliffs, the mountain goats and the roadside stands that were someone’s livelihood.

I remember looking closely at all the people we passed: they all seemed happy and content with their lives.

I remember feeling like I could be really happy here, too. Like maybe the Greeks had it all figured out and life isn’t about money or cars or all of the things we make important. Maybe life is about the simple things like having someone you love to share it with.

I was contemplating happiness a lot that summer. Mostly because it seemed to be an elusive presence in our lives, but also because the things that make others happy has always fascinated me. We were experiencing all of these cultures, and I wanted to take pieces of what made these people happy and apply them to my own life.

My wheels started turning, and I asked the question as it floated through my mind.

“Do you want to live in a dirt house with me?”

You thought for a second before answering with words that shattered the very basis of what I thought our relationship was.

“I could be happy that way if I didn’t have you and Sophie.”

I felt like I’d just been punched in the gut and hit in the chest all at the same time. I’d never felt more like a liability, more like someone you just needed to take care of rather than someone you really wanted to share a life with.

I wasn’t suggesting we pack up and move, but the fact that you didn’t think you could be happy with me there hurt any way.

I asked you what if it was what I really wanted? What if it was my ideal life?

You still said no, that you had to do more –to do better. That it simply wouldn’t be enough.

Tears welled up in my eyes, but I just said okay.

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I could’ve stayed here forever. 

You were rarely honest with me when I asked things like this so even though the answer I got wasn’t the one I wanted, I was happy you told me your truth.

I always knew we were different, that we often spoke different love languages and that we challenged each other. In this moment, though, my heart broke a little bit as I realized that we didn’t value the same things.

All I want out of a relationship is someone who will love me for me, not because of what I will offer them or what I can do for them. I want someone who will be happy with me no matter where we are or what our life circumstance is.

I want love, real, raw, true love. The kind of love that isn’t necessarily easy. I don’t want my partner to be naive to my flaws, but rather to love me so completely that they love them, too.

More than anything, I never want someone to feel like they need to take care of me. I never want them to feel like they can’t take risks because of me.

I cannot speak for you now, it would be unfair, but in that moment, it felt as though you cared more about fulfilling your role as a provider than you did about me and my hopes and dreams.

You thought I needed a fancy house and nice things and the world handed to me on a silver platter, but all I wanted was for you to want me, no matter what.

It’s been months since we had that conversation, the one where you told me you would feel like you failed if you didn’t give me the life that looks good on paper, but I still can’t shake it.

You didn’t want to live in a dirt house with me.

I wasn’t enough to be all you needed, and that hurt my heart more than any of the other things that led to our eventually downfall.

Or maybe it wasn’t that you needed more. Maybe it was that I made you feel like I did. I didn’t, though, for what it’s worth. Probably nothing, at this point, but my love for you was never based on what you could or could not give me.

Maybe I’m naive. If anything, I am certainly a hopeless romantic, but I’d like to believe a love like that exists. A love where nothing matters but two people loving each other deeply and openly regardless of what their life looks like.

I don’t need someone to give me anything but themselves. I don’t need money or a protector or a provider. I need love. We all need love.

I’ll wait for it.