annus mirabilis

It was fortunate that my heart broke in the coldest winter.
I became an exposed nerve and did not want to face
the full force of grief. There was nowhere to go
with layers of snow turning the world into a constricted icebox.
And I wasn’t brave enough to go nowhere alone
yet.
So I stayed in and mourned alone instead.

It was fortunate that my heart regrew in the most vibrant spring.
Everything still hurt, seemed wickedly designed to hurt:
even butterflies, even smiling, even people inquiring about my welfare
or whether I’d forgotten the laundry basket outside of my apartment door
for three days.
But slowly, so slowly, the world grew colorful again, as did I.
Weeping rains pattered away and the sun promised warmer tomorrows.

It was fortunate that my heart swelled in a temperate summer.
Under bold yet unscathing rays, I dared myself to do anything
and everything. I did it without accompaniment.
I relished my own choices and audacity.
The heat egged me on, encouraging my escapades and thrills.
The thought of living out my days without a companion inspired fear no more.
I decided, and made peace with, exactly who I am.

Naturally, thereafter, during a windy and conspiratorial autumn,
my new, swollen heart sang loudly
enough to find a songmate. We grew together
as leaves danced down,
flowers closed up shop,
and daylight found progressively earlier resting hours.
We are fortunate.

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Priorities

No matter your beauty, making the
sole source
of your self-esteem
your physical form
over the course of a lifetime
is like buying a brand new car
and treating it
like your savings plan.

It depreciates. Bank on other things.

That’s not to say that you should
treat your body
like it does not matter at all.
There is a difference between people
who take care of themselves
and people who do not,
just as there is a difference between people
who practice proper car maintenance
and people who do not.
(And sometimes accidents happen,
even if you’re taking good care of it.)

All the same, bank on other things. Diversify your portfolio of self-investment.

Your body will thank you
for the reduction of pressure to be
impossibly perfect.
And you cannot imagine yet what
the rest of you will accomplish,
once properly valued.

Bootstraps and Facts

Just to offer an alternative perspective
to this endless need
to prove
that we all accomplished everything
on our own
despite insurmountable odds:
I had help.

I had a lot of help
at various times
from my family, friends, neighbors, teachers, colleagues, managers,
and total strangers
(especially authors).

Once I had help
from a random Uber driver
when I was totally out
of optimism
and needed kindness
like oxygen.

True, some people decidedly did NOT help.
And sometimes the same people
who helped
with one thing
or at one time
made something else harder
or made everything harder, later;
but their help still mattered.

People don’t do much of import alone.
Help doesn’t undermine our effort
or devalue our achievements
because we can do amazing things,
and we are better together.

Hand me your bootstraps, friend.

Let me know if you need anything

“Let me know if you need anything.”

Most people say it automatically.

Some people mean it, with caveats.

A few just don’t know what else to say in order to stave off an uncomfortable sense of helplessness.

But we aren’t them.

When I tell you “anything”, you know.

I will remote order you dinner when you can’t get off the floor.

I will filter and respond to communications to keep your days quiet enough for healing.

I am here.

I know I am far, but I am here—for you.

And if what you need most is somebody to be there instead, I will make my way.

Just say the word, any word—I will listen, always.

Kids’ Night at the Burger Joint

They’re giving out free balloons,

the boy told us eagerly as he left.

RED balloons!

How nice.

Red like MURDER,

he added,

as his nonplussed mother tugged him away.

We went inside anyway.

At the table behind us,

another boy squirmed

screaming at his mobile device

DIE DIE DIE

while his parents had cocktails and fries.

Here’s what you should do.

First,

Children listen.

Then they contort.

Social compression goes unnoticed.

Later, they’ll feel the stiffness.

But unknotting is harder than stretching.

Imagine if they had heard “could” instead.

Now adults must unwind balls of stress—themselves.

Wondering, “Is any of me left under these wraps?”

Seeking the answer bravely, or lacing back up in fear.

After years constricted, years may be needed to breathe again.

Years of change, challenge, and—most painfully—the unknown.

Surely the self is in this mess somewhere,

Just wrapped too tightly to call out.

The lines are quite tangled sometimes.

Can it even be done?

Breathe in, breathe out.

Count to ten.

Count back,

Again.

night thoughts

I wish I was as still as you

steady, peaceful, effortless

maybe I spend too much time running

or my cradle was rocked too hard

maybe nightmares keep me waking

or the dread of tomorrow’s alarm

yet I’m grateful for your simple slumber

soothing, calm, dependable

undeterred and undisturbed

by my fidgeting and sighing

letting me work through my aftershocks

more tranquil each night

waiting to breathe together again

patient, restful, warm

Lies I Once Believed

It’s hard being a cynic.

Optimists are just naïve.

Realists exist.

I need to change.

I cannot change.

People are good.

People are bad.

I cannot be happy alone.

I’m better off alone.

I can do it all.

I don’t have to choose.

Financial stability buys freedom.

The real world has no place for art and compassion.

Everyone can communicate.

Empathy is not a real skill.

Vulnerability is weakness.

Creativity is risk.  Risk should be avoided.

What I say and do don’t matter.

wake up call

I had a dream not long ago.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

In my dream, a tree had fallen on me.

I remember it slowly bearing down as I wriggled.

I remember the squeezing sensation of my skull approaching its cracking point.

But, most of all, I remember the horrible flight of hope.

The certainty that someone would rescue me melted.

My cries for help caught in my throat.

Then came the irreversible knowing: a freak accident death, a random unfinished end.

My life had no special purpose.

I was embarrassed to realize I’d always thought someday I would do something significant.

Whatever that means in a temporary, unfeeling universe.

I didn’t matter enough for any entity in the cosmos to intervene.

I breathed deeply, trying to glimpse the sky because I would miss it the most.

I woke up relieved, and in horror.

the god of now

You want me to describe my god to you?

I’ll make an effort.

When I was a child, I was given many things.

One was a picture of god as a father and a ruler and a punisher.

He helped me, in those early days, to feel safe and behave appropriately.

But later, when I saw more of the world, I realized he was too small to answer my questions, or infuse my spirit, or quell my true fears – true, by virtue of being grounded in reality, in the horrors and injustices all around me.

When I was older, but not yet fully myself, I resented and gave him up, knowing I could never get him back.

I lived alone.

I tried to fill the emptiness of his loss with people and ideologies, wading through several pools but staying ever in shallow waters.

These pursuits led repeatedly back to a familiar place of disappointment and hopelessness.

Later still, I realized I had never grieved for god the father, god the tyrant, god the security blanket.

So I mourned.

And I wandered alone again.

On no particular day, during no particular crisis beyond prolonged fatigue and sadness, I encountered the god of now.

Only a flicker of a glimpse of the god of now can I hope to convey.

She is she to me and anything to you.

She is the best things in my mind, the essence of authenticity, small delights, enormous joy, gratitude, empathy, and kindness.

She is ineffable but articulate.

She is connection to more, to others and to the earth itself, to the stars beyond, to the memory of my ancestors, to the honor of heroes and the tragedy of lost souls.

She is whatever I need her to be, when I need strength or resolve or courage or compassion.

She allows me to pray but needs no worship.

She is a construct of my mind or an unfathomable external force.

She does not ask me to find out for sure.

She only asks me to live as my full self.

So I try.

 

Pennies

I don’t know why people throw away pennies,

But I love finding them with you.

 

Since I met you, nothing feels insignificant:

not pennies,

not words,

not blinks,

not breaths.

 

During the past few years, my goals have simplified:

do my best,

be here now,

make you smile,

enjoy our time.

 

We continue collecting memories and pennies:

pretty penny, lucky penny,

penny dreadful,

shiny penny, honest penny,

penny wiser.

 

But we cannot pinch them.

Just like time, we can only spend them well.

Trickery, trickery, doc.

Mary had an Instagram, Instagram, Instagram.

Mary had an Instagram that nobody followed.

But everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went,

Everywhere that Mary went, the camera sure did go.

Jack the symbol,

Jack the dick,

Jack dump and dismantle chicks.

Ice cap ridges melting down, melting down, melting down,

Ice cap ridges melting down,

Ignore daily.

Trickery, trickery, doc.

The mice work round the clock.

The clock strikes five, the rats race home.

Trickery, trickery, doc.

Grumpy Stumpy used to be tall.

Grumpy Stumpy’s friend went awol.

All the prescriptions and all of the gin

Couldn’t put Stumpy together again.

Jack and Bill left from the Hill

To find a future daughter.

Jack went down,

They broke Bill’s crown,

And Jill stayed with the orphans.

Who killed black bobbins?

I, said the police,

With my badge and this piece.

I killed black bobbins.

Who saw them die?

I, thought a guy,

Was just passing by,

So turned a blind eye.

All the thoughts and the prayers,

And the trying and sobbing,

Could not return to home

Little black bobbins.

There was a posh woman who needed more shoes.

She passed homeless children; she didn’t know what to do.

She gave them some cloth without many threads.

Then whistled to herself and bought bags instead.

Word Value

Value of Words

1.

Hate isn’t a strong word.

Think about how casually everyone uses it.

No words are strong anymore.

Phrases might be strong, sometimes.

If I say, “I hate you and I hope you die” and you know I’m not being sarcastic, then it might be considered strong phrasing.

Give me a word, any word, and I’ll show you how it has no strength on its own.

“Love.”

Said while staring at a new model of iPhone!

2.

Well, I think you’re going about this all wrong.

Words are strong

-not simply because they are the building blocks of phrases, just as individual breaths are what compose our lives, with few more significant than others, though some may be deeper-

But also because words are concepts made tangible: symbols and sounds that can create shared understanding between otherwise separate minds.

Put two strangers, who barely know one another or who barely speak one another’s language, in a tense situation and one word can become all that matters.

“Peace.”

A single word with the strength to convey between two unfamiliar psyches both “I intend no harm” and “please do me no harm”.

turning 30 soon

You say, “You must feel so old!”

You’re right. I suppose I must.

Certainly I cannot feel “young”.

I wear compression socks and like to drink hot water.

Besides, I did not navigate painstakingly through

infancy,

toddlerhood,

childhood,

adolescence,

and early adulthood

to be called “young” now.

It was hard work, aging.

Maturing was even harder.

My life has not been long – yet.

Still, I am old.

Too much has happened.

Ages have come and gone in my lifetime.

Identity crises, among other demons, have arisen and been slain.

A respectable career has been built up slowly and, later, traded back in for the gambler’s pursuit of true fulfillment.

People have died, physically and in worse ways.

Beliefs have shifted, like slices of glitter in a kaleidoscope, maintaining core components but morphing in perspective with each twist.

Irreplaceable pieces of the world (at large, and mine) have crumbled away.

And I have had to heave the dead weight of myself towards resurrection from the kind of nothingness from which many never return.

Twice.

If you’re seeking commiseration or embarrassment, you’ve come to the wrong old lady.

“Old” isn’t a synonym for tired, or unhealthy, or disappointed, or boring, or resigned.

Old simply means “I have lived”.

And I have lived well so far.

Happy birthday dad 

I love the story mom tells about when you refused to take a break. You were doing what you do best: building homes.

She had important news, so she yelled her words up. And my dad -my big, strong father- nearly toppled down.

I love how much I amazed you, just as an announcement. Barely a concept. Not even a name.

It took longer for me to return that sense of amazement. You were many other things to me first: familiar, funny, smart, supportive.

We have always been close. But I had to become myself before I could realize how much I got from you.

Thank you for patience. Thank you for a strong work ethic. Thank you for perseverance, friendliness, and silliness. Thank you for your wisdom and honor. Thank you for my life. It’s a good one, like you.

Happy birthday dad.

I went searching for meaning 

I went searching for meaning. 

I looked under a rock and I found nothing. I looked behind a tree and I found nothing. I looked between flower petals and I found nothing. I looked inside a seashell and I found nothing.

I read books at school and I found nothing. I worked hard at an office and I found nothing. I spent money on things and I found nothing. I loved with all I have and I found nothing. I looked within myself and I found nothing.

I told the wisest man alive everything I’d tried and asked him where I should go to find meaning.

“It was under the rock,” he said and smiled.

So I did it all again – and I found everything.

Missing Things

I am missing things.

I’m missing birthdays and showers and parties and fun.

I’m missing phone calls and messages and politely timed responses.

I’m missing regular exercise and time to properly assemble myself in the morning and an unchaotic routine.

I’m missing car keys, shoes, and that thing I just had 5 minutes ago.

I’m missing spending time outdoors and reading and dancing.

I’m missing quiet, unbusy moments.

I’m missing so many people.

But.

I am working round-the-clock on what I need.

I hope it’s worth what I’m missing.

10 years later

I wish I could say I forgot

But I thought about it all week

I remember you said I couldn’t be gay

But I still am

I don’t remember much of the day

But I, of course, remember exactly what I was wearing

I don’t remember much about you either

But I remember what you did

I don’t know how I got through it or how anyone ever does

But I am still here

I don’t want to know about you

But I am doing quite well these days

I may never manage to forget

But I have healed 

I try to help others now

And I can write about it.

More Storms

I have always dreamed of storms.

For years, I’ve seen them approach. They were unbearably colossal; I feared their size more than their wrath. Sudden and dreadful, they closed off the sun. I was always alone, my insides full of defeat.

I dream of them still.

But they are different now, as am I. I dream of struggle; I dream of escape. There will be survivors and we will be two of them. You are always with me. And within me churns determination.

I hear it now

The perfect calm of early morning silence.

The symphony nature produces when uninterrupted by mundane talk.
The divinity of mundane talk when murmured by a good companion.

The jingle behind authentic laughter.

Capable, wise discussions between intuition and knowledge – and nobody else.
Unending echoes of the triumphant roar after defeating demons.

Confidence; she’s loud.

Perspectives, as overlapping melodies, clashing or harmonizing, but always real.
Right Now, over the clamor of Before and Later.

My own voice.