Tag Archives: hope

the burning clock of time.

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I was just sitting on the couch crying at long island medium on netflix, of all things. crying for the simple reason that in every episode, the running theme in what the dead are trying to communicate to their living loved ones is: don’t feel guilty. don’t feel like you could have done more. you did all you could. our beloved dead, they just want us to be happy. I could have used that message a long time ago, but here it is, now. I suppose I will need it again, soon enough.

last week I saw n. for the first time in a decade, really. she’s one of my good friends from high school. we’d lost touch because she was in a supreme downward spiral. she pushed everyone away & then disappeared. I had no idea what happened to her, and her birth name is a very common one, so she’s hard to track on the internet. but then last spring we ran into each other on the street in Oakland. she lives in santa cruz, not far from here, and last weekend I was down there & I gave her a call. she picked me up & we drove to the beach, trying to encapsulate the past decade when there was so much to say.

I said, “I thought you were dead.” she says, “I really did almost die,” and then told me how she came to live. she is healthier than i’d ever seen her. we saw people swimming in the ocean and we decided to go. to the nude beach, because we didn’t have bathing suits. the pacific ocean, in October. I haven’t been in this body of water yet, it’s too cold up where I live. it was kind of too cold then, but the water helped us focus. I put my head under and let out an involuntary yelp and she laughed so hard. it was sunny and here we are, this girl I love so much, who I honestly thought was gone forever, I mean even when I saw her she acted like a ghost, it was impossible to talk, she wasn’t even there. and now she is here, and I am here, and we were there, and I got salt on my face like I was craving, and we were so cold but we didn’t mind, every nerve in our skin firing, the discomfort reminding us that we are still alive.

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writing this down, because i don’t want to forget

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at 6am this morning, at the mental health facility where i work, i consoled a crying client. “this goddamn war’s been going on for twelve years,” she sobbed. “TWELVE YEARS. why doesn’t anyone care?” i said a few things. we talked about hopelessness and hope, about working for change. it was a good conversation, but it gnawed at me.

why doesn’t anyone care? why don’t i care (more)? these questions are unanswerable. maybe because i’m delerious on three hours of sleep.

i could tell you about other things, i guess. like how i am doing a totally scary thing right now and it’s so good. or how  much i want to go on a long bike trip but i only have a byke with one gear and noplace to attach a front rack (and my panniers are in the possession of j., who i adore but who i fear will not give them back in a timely manner. it doesn’t help that he’s on the other side of america.)

i could tell you how my memoir has been troubled by something new i’ve learned. how i may need to tear most of it down. or maybe throw it away, this thing i’ve been building for two years, now. just sift out a few chunks for open mic amusements. maybe print out a copy or two for people who want to know this particular story.

i could tell you how i spent an hour cleaning hamburger grease yesterday, also at work, and how thoroughly it repulsed me. the thickness, the stench.

i could tell you about the sun glinting off the bay today. or how another client who was leaving said to me today, “i always felt safe around you,” and how much it warmed my heart. she told me that my aura is rainbow, and that she has dreams that sometimes come true, and i believed her wholeheartedly. (i have so, so, so much more i want to say about work but i have to be careful to not violate confidentiality. i don’t think that either of these exchanges were confidential.)

i want the prison in guantanamo bay to be shut down. i remember how pleased i was, in 2008, when obama was talking about it, saying all these things that i thought, and how weird it was, to be in line with a president. but in 2013, it still remains open, still tortures with our tax dollars.

here is a drawing by a child of a prisoner in tamms supermax prison in illinois, another state-sponsored torture factory. it was closed in january of this year. i’m posting it to remind myself–and you–that sometimes we win. but usually we don’t. to keep loving. and keep fighting.

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doesn’t feel like i left home, feels like i came home (it’s late, so i am using the enter key as i will. not a poem though)

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leah lakshmi piepzna-samarashina is one of my feminist/queer literary heroes, for real, for real, for real, she tells so much raw truth, so many jagged edges but also this strong undercurrent of hope. she knows what it means to heal, and writes about it in a way that’s a map for other people who need it. she writes about way more than that, about family and incest and homelands and more, but i guess it’s that aforementioned theme that resonates with me the most deeply.

i bought her book of poems, “love cake”, today and i was just sitting on the couch reading it. struck by a line, so simple, yet it describes exactly how i am feeling at this point in my life:

“thirty, unbroken by my history

walking in a new city”

and when i read that line, it was practically pulsating, it was like a shining electric message from god. i am thirty. and right now, at this exact moment, i am feeling unbroken by my history. at this time last year i thought i would always be crazy, destructively so. i thought i could not love and was inherently unlovable. for realz, for realz, i did, and if this hellish year has taught me anything it’s taught me that people love me.

and that love comes from all sources. and that concentrating it all in one place is usually a bad idea.

thirty. unbroken by my history. i just never thought i would get here, get to a point where it makes sense, where it makes me strong instead of making me weak. i have so many people i wanna thank but to thank them all properly would reveal too many secrets. francesca and i were just talking, tonight, about catholicism and how it inspires one either to over-share or under-share, based on which neuroses you internalized. (obvi, i am of the over-sharing variety)

here’s to leaps of faith

here’s to breathing through the heartbreak

here’s to letting go of bitterness

here’s to dispelling the rumors that i am just a fucking asshole or what have you. i can only dispel them with my heart. loving fiercely and living as though i am not that bad person. it’s all i can do.

here’s to everyone, everyone, everyone who has shown me kindness

here’s to those of you who scribble in notebooks because it’s your only way home (OUR only way home)

here’s to everyone who thinks they aren’t going to make it

and here’s to the me, homeless & sobbing on street corners at 23, understanding i’m an alien at 9, wanting to die at 13. here’s the me that left home at 18 and was wandering the country via greyhound for months on saved drugstore wages. amazed but buckling under a great burden of sadness and feeling guilty for not having a better time. here’s to the me that wandered so many streets–hungry or exhausted or weeping or heartbroken–of so many different cities.

to paraphrase something that someone far more brilliant said: now i am walking in a new city.

this is mostly a letter i was writing in my head, to amanda. but i thought i should just write it all here instead.

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i’m glad i came out here. my ipod keeps shuffling to songs about california, songs about this year being better than the last. i believe in them, because i have to.

today i went to the oakland library, which honestly made me kinda homesick because the pgh library is so fucking great that any other library anywhere is pretty disappointing. but then the library closed and i had to make a several-mile trek up to rockridge to hang out with scarin and andrew and some danish couchsurfers. biking during rush hour, oh no, right? but it was totally fine. drivers aren’t totally fucked up here, not all of them anyway. they’re used to bikers and there are bike lanes and routes everywhere and it’s so nice. about halfway through my journey i saw a house whose garden was so magnificent i just needed to stop. hot pink petals everywhere, or i guess they were more magenta, so vibrant it hurt to look. i took a few blossoms that had fallen onto the sidewalk, pressed them in my journal to mail to my girl (who isn’t really my girl anymore, but i think i can still send her flowers and have it be okay). but i just stood and stared for a while, overwhelmed by the beauty. the foliage here is so different. it makes me feel like i’ve really gotten somewhere. there’s a palm tree on my block, can you imagine?

eventually i made it to my destination and met up with everyone. we ate mexican food and then went to this lake. the sun was setting and it was so ridiculously cold (okay, like probably in the upper 60’s, but that’s cold for swimming!) but we all went swimming anyway. scarin was rocking the most amazing bathing suit, and the two danish dudes were brightly colored and hilarious. we all splashed and played and talked and it was fun, even though my fingertips were turning blue.

walking back to the car i was cold and shivery. the sunset made all of us stop and take notice. you can’t write about sunsets. you just can’t. you have to be there. but trust me, it was gorgeous.

scarin had the access code to this hippie hot tub, so we all went there. basically, some rich dude with a hot tub has given out access codes to a few respectful people, granting them access to his backyard. these people can share them with a select few respectful people, and on and on. there’s a shower and changing area and a big hot tub, non-chlorinated. the lights are on low and everyone is naked. speech is prohibited, to cut down on sexual harassment possibilities. but i think also, to make you more aware of the moment, to make it more of a space to renew one’s energy.

so. i was naked, with one of my favorite & oldest palz, and three dudes i’d met just that night, but it was totally fine, not awkward or weird at all, with anyone. strangers came and went in complete silence. the hot tub was almost too hot, even for a hot-water-lover like myself, so i had to keep getting out. there was a hammock next to the tub, and i laid on it.

the hammock! remember the hammock? [for those who don’t know, i had a hammock several houses ago {which was actually amanda’s, but i was its custodian i guess} & had to leave it behind. i was really bummed. beyond bummed. this summer, it was finally rescued. i was so excited. i’d been waiting for so long. i went over ben’s house to use it, with amanda, and within five minutes of laying in it the weathered, frayed, un-taken-care-of ropes snapped] when we fell through i tried to be cool with it. i said “at least we got five minutes” but i was angry and sad. all spring and summer, all i’d wanted to do was lay in a fucking hammock. be caressed by the breeze. feel like i was floating. and it just felt like i wasn’t going to get to do it. it felt like i was so close, but wasn’t there. like i was being taunted, or something.

and here i was. 2,500 miles from my old backyard. in this awesome hammock, naked in semi-public but feeling safe. skin warm and soft. one of the danes sighed, “there’s no place in the world i’d rather be than here, right now.”  no dogs barking or neighbors screaming at each other, which usually punctuated most of my hammocking back in pgh. i finally got my hammock time. i didn’t even know it was coming; just thought i’d have to do without. i  never could have imagined this night, this circumstance, any of it. but it happened, and it was so fucking sweet.

and i was locked/into being my mother’s daughter. i was just eating bread & water, thinking, “nothing ever changes.”

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i wasn’t really paying much attention a few months ago when the blogosphere was blabbing about the “it gets better” project. in case you didn’t know, it’s a project started by sex columnist dan savage where QUILTBAG (queer, intersex, lesbian, trans, bi, ally/asexual, gay. my friend alicia made this up, i cannot take credit, but isn’t that amazing?!?) adults write stories and make videos for QUILTBAG teens telling them that life doesn’t always suck as badly as it does in high school, basically a plea not to kill themselves.

a lot of peeps i know critiqued the project, mainly because life is hard and, you know, it’s always gonna be hard, and selling teens a sparkly gay future isn’t always the best idea, the most responsible idea.

i agree, sort of. i was thinking about it today, mostly because my job bears a stunning resemblance to high school (i get in trouble for thinking for myself, the stupidest/meanest people are the most popular [and the loudest!], i get summer vacation!, and people make fun of my outfits on a semi-regular basis [mostly clients on the elevator or in the hallway. no co-workers have made fun of me to my face, yet]) and i was wondering if anything has really changed in the 10.5 years since high school ended, in the 10 years since i left my parents’ house.

but then i thought, of course it has. and even though this past decade has been um, challenging, it’s still way better than being an angsty suicidal high schooler. even though i am still struggling, every day, to keep the fuckin’ faith in a hostile environment; to not hate myself even though i am surrounded by forces that say i should; to keep living and fighting even when it seems so pointless. even though these are the exact same struggles that i thought maybe would be over when i left high school and my family’s house. not that i thought everything would be perfect; i thought i’d have new problems, different problems. and i do, and i have; but the old ones keep on cycling back every few years.

but even though, even though, even though i’m still in this swamp, there are some ways that it’s easier. like, i now have indisputable evidence that there is life out there worth living, instead of just a vague notion, a silly hope. like, i have a home that is actually a sanctuary now, somewhere i feel safe and loved, somewhere that is not just an extra nightmare at the end of a long hard day. no violence, very little judgment, none of those awful things that just seemed so normal for so long. and i don’t ever want to take that for granted. and i don’t want to de-emphasize the effect that has had on me, on my well-being and general happiness levels, to finally have a safe space. it has changed my life so, so profoundly.

another good thing is that i now get paid $15/hour to be surrounded by negativity, and in high school i did that shit for free! never again, my friends.

of course, it took a long time to get to a space marked “okay,” many years of psychotic housemates, low-wage soul-deadening jobs, crappy relationships, teetering piles of self-doubt. and even those years, i think, were better than those achingly empty afternoons on long island.

and even those years, those long long years, i still had fun & they still taught me something, i still had a weird hope, no matter how many cigarettes i smoked. no matter how many times i listened to “out of range”by ani difranco (the song, not the album) on repeat. no matter how many times that weird thing she did with her voice on the chorus pierced straight through my ribcage, when i knew she knew, this stranger singing my life. i knew she’d been there too. and maybe i would get stuck too, or maybe i could make it out; maybe i could make it to the other side.