The Urban Wilds

Outside near my office in the city, another tree just quit. 

When I arrived years ago, there was one dead tree. I remember thinking it looked odd amongst the healthy, manicured ones that lined the sidewalks within perfect squares of dirt.

The landscaping surprised and delighted me at first. It just makes me sad now.

The trees, whose roots grow in cramped knots under cement ceilings, stare at me while they whither. Their shuddering, struggling leaves almost say, “I could’ve been more. I could’ve been wild. I could’ve stretched my arms to the heavens.”

There are a handful of dead ones now, with many others showing signs of an untimely and ill-favored faceoff with mortality.

First they all grow weird, with thirsty leaves thrusting out all over branch and trunk alike. Shamelessly, their appearance grows as shaggy as neighboring (and, actually, well-pruned) bushes in the futile attempt to sip more sun from behind buildings that scrape the sky.

“I’m so sorry you cannot grow here,” I think.

The dead tree was no outlier. One by one, they fail to conform to their restrictions. And one by one, they martyr themselves trying to do so.

I don’t want to witness the last of these trees putting down its fight. Or be around when property owners’ budgets allow for an aesthetic improvement project to euthanize the final public eyesore.

“I’m so sorry,” I think again.

We, the wilds, cannot survive here.


Silent and Still

I turned my phone off.

Did they think I don’t care?

My mind had to rest.

Very rarely do the needs, though.

Best case, I worry too much; worst, I coddle and stunt.

And without experiencing the consequences,

It cannot follow that they’ll learn from their nightmares.

Failed good intentions may have paved the way there.

But they made their beds, with agonizing deliberateness.

All the while, I begged them not to lay down.

I helped them out again, too.

Can I just rest in mine a minute?

Do I sleep well at night?

Is it wrong if I do?

Try to spend a lifetime awake.

Harder still, spend it fretting.

Now I’m tired.


I wrote this some time ago, but did not publish it. I think a friend may need to read it now though. I promise it gets easier to put your insides back together, Sherri. <3


you never wanted to hold hands
so we walked with a ribbon
tied from my waist to yours
when you ventured outward further
I gave you more slack
and bound myself more tightly
the pressure brought me no closer to you
but I felt tugging sometimes
(and mistook it for affection)
incrementally rending my core

you were so far away
I didn’t even notice
when you dropped your end
or that mine had slid through
until you walked back
to tell the halves of me
that you’d been too tightly tethered
as you left
my unheld hands
scooped guts and began stitching

parts of speech

You say you hate your voice and that makes me sad.

I love your voice.

Its uniqueness is one of the first things I noticed about you.

I said I didn’t want to forget what you sound like but we both hate the phone, so we went on the first date.

You know, you actually speak in several different ways.

You’re typically soft-spoken, especially when you’re thinking about it. You speak warmly, but quietly

-like every word needs considerate care-taking throughout its delivery.

(And you’re right; they all do. Everyone else is doing it wrong.)

Other times though, your voice brings life to the party, boisterous and playful

-like you inhale charm, but exhale friendliness.

(You’d rather be goofy and kind than sultry and alluring; the paradox is that I do find that alluring.)

You have a million forms of laughter

-like you create a whole new way of bringing light into the world every day.

(Which you do, with or without audio; and I want to hear every single one of them.)

“When you sing, it brings sunshine and happiness into my heart.”

-like your need for fun so far outweighs your need to look cool that it morphs your car into a karaoke bar.

(Yes, I stole that line from a movie we just watched. And yes, I treasure each Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey song you’ve shouted at me on road trips.)

Please don’t quiet yourself. Your voice gives you words to speak yourself alive and teach me about you. I want to hear it every day. I prefer your speech to any other sound that has ever shaken the atoms of existence, even ducks quacking.

I’m listening.

Jagged isn’t the same as broken

To the Lost Girl,

You are like kin to me, but I’m not in the habit of intervention these days; it never takes. People must save themselves or they’ll just get lost again. 

Yet, never mistake-I believe in you. All I can offer is distant support.

You may be jagged, but you’re not irreparable. And who says we have to be all smooth?

Nobody can destroy your best self, not even you. She’s one decision (and, admittedly, a fair bit of effort) away. Don’t be daunted by faltering; just learn. Once you’re trying, you are her already.

I hope you put in the work for reclamation. Seek help, cry mercy, find God, reconcile, make art, do whatever it takes for you to work through your inner wilderness. (It took quite a few things for me, not all of which I’d suggest.) 

Becoming yourself is the most critical task of your life and, fortunately, the one over which you have the most control.

Too many wonderful women waste away their sunrises in a lightless box trying to shred themselves or one another.

But we are never truly broken.

Best wishes, always from afar,


Unconditional Love is Not Romantic.

I learned something: if you want a lover (and you’re under no obligation there), don’t settle for less than someone who understands and can provide your version of love. Here are some thoughts on mine.

Unconditional Love is Not Romantic.

Because compulsory devotion is not attractive.
Nobody should idealize the notion of automatic dedication.
If I could not control my love, how could I choose you?

Be in love with my free will instead, my consciously and continuously placing you apart from all others.
Understand that we each hold in our hands the power to destroy the other’s affection through certain words or actions.
But we never do.

Love, like life, thrives through nurturing.
I do not accept abuse of my heart any more than that of my body.
If someone breaks it, I pull the components back together, recreate them, or replace them.

Perhaps humbled and devastated, maybe slowly and with great agony,
But somehow, I redeem every ounce of my capacity to love.
And eventually, I give it to someone deserving.

Someone who could, and would want to, say daily:

I know who you are.
I am not in love with the teamwork or the familiarity or the passion or the myriad of additional, wonderful benefits that accompany partnership.
I am not in love with being in love.
I am in love with you.
And it would be my honor to spend today making you happy.

Someone for whom you, without hesitation, could reciprocate those words.

Love is earned, again and again.
It’s a privilege to earn it, not work.
Respect yourself, your partnerrespect love itself.
Terms and conditions apply.
And they should.

Before I go

They have to go first, please.

Sometimes I get angry with myself for having held onto them for too long. 

They kept me afloat when storms raged and aglow when skies darkened.

For considerable time I couldn’t have released them because they were effective life support.

I sustain myself now.

Fairness and pain no longer concern me.

Only inaction frightens me; I’m not so attached to breathing as fulfillment.

Sending them out to stand or die on their own may seem a strange gratitude.

But I am no reservoir.

I’m losing time and they’ve simply grown too many and too large to contain.

I have to give them their own lives.

I hope I get these stories out of me before I go.


–You like your poetry with a bit of rhyme.
So I threw some into here (kind of, sometimes).–

Some prefer pictures. Others scoff, “They’re not deeds.”
But words still mean so much to someone like me.

Authors weave their text while extroverts talk lots.
I’ll always be both if I like it or not.

We’ve already built a new language ourselves.
We have effortless fun and well-stocked bookshelves.

So surely it befuddles one so astute
that sometimes I still swiftly go rather mute.

Once, a while ago, I almost lost my voice.
Writing, like love, is a deliberate choice.

My view about labels was really just this:
“If you don’t define things, they’re harder to miss.”

But I’m done with dread and I forego hiding.
I don’t want to stop our worlds from colliding.

So you can write them down or just take them in.
You can swallow them whole. I’ll type them again.

You can choose them carefully or blurt them out.
You can whisper or murmur or sing or shout.

We can dance and date and enjoy and entwine.
You can say I’m yours; I’d love to call you mine.

Or, do you not know?


I still have no idea what we’re doing.

Sometimes, I hate myself for fearing

if you could, would you rather

recover former pain than risk it anew?

Because I, too, have loved and bled.

But I do not miss my past

more than I want a better future.

I’ve been content;

it’s an insidious state, 

luring one onto a complicit plateau.

Your company makes me happy.

I wake up hoping and plotting ways

to make you smile.

Don’t you know who I am yet?

I don’t care how

Normally I am a huge proponent of the means over the end.

But I need you to come back.

I don’t know -cannot bear to imagine- what you’re going through,

Or what you will have to do to make it out again.

Just come home.

I will smooth whatever jagged pieces of you need repair.

You already know my hands are tough enough.

This is not a request.

You will return.

I don’t care how.

The worst thing a good person can do to a bad person…

My Blessing to You​

I grant you as much joy as you put into the world.

No one will ever speak an untrue negative word about you.

You won’t be punished for anything you didn’t do,

or suffer the loss of that which you earned for yourself.

You’ll receive the treatment you bestow,

and the goodness of your intentions will return to you from others.

I grant you forgiveness for mistakes,

in equal measure to your heartfelt regret and just reparations.

To that end, I send you the empathy to experience how you make others feel,

as well as full understanding of your actions and their consequences.

Your health will last as long as it takes you to fulfill your positive purpose.

You should, and will, get everything in life that you deserve.

This is my blessing to you.

Our rules are different, so it does not compare to what you’ve granted others.

But then, we were never comparable anyway, were we?

Nightmare Fodder

I wake with a start and check on you instinctively; sure enough, you aren’t sleeping.

You’ve ripped open the sutures again and your heart is pumping as strongly as ever, but leaking.

I try to help you, but it’s so hard to sew raw flesh over pixels.

Why bother with foresight if I’m useless?

My mind grasps at the cheapest sense of control, self-blame.

Perhaps there’s some universal pool of allowable joy, just daring me to be happy so it can tear the smile straight off of you.

(It’s only as illogical as any other dogma, really.)

Ignoring voices of exhausted unreason, I try to prescribe the remedies no one wants to endure: time, distance, self-care.

You find something in a bottle instead.

And so we swap insomnia, if not sadness.

You’re sitting in a cage again

My god the things we have let our lovers do to us

I keep swearing I won’t repeat this cycle

But if one of us could make it out alive

I hope it’s you

You seem really nice

We danced for hours.

It’s cute that you were still too nervous to give me your number, so you gave it to my friend.

I liked the way your hair smelled, too. Sorry I didn’t say that.

I’m enjoying our exchange of quips. Sorry I can’t say that.

I am terrible

at people, and risk,

and beginnings.

I am still ripping myself from this earth

vein by vein

to replant somewhere new and start again.

I don’t need a reason to think about staying.

You seem really nice, but I’ve been wrong before.

Accomplishments To-Date


  • Ate brownies for breakfast.
  • Burnt a 7-minute frozen pizza (lol timers, who needs those?).
  • Did not put on “real” clothes entire day.
  • Found out my employer is being purchased by one I’d have never considered, having heard only horrible things.
    • Office relocation – likely.
    • Benefits nerfing/policy changes – unavoidable.
    • Downsizing – possible.
    • Annual raises next month – unlikely.
  • Watched 2 Fast 2 Furious (the marathon continues but it is going to be rough to get through Tokyo Drift).
  • Discovered, to my dismay, that some beverages offer only 2.5 % ABV.


I got out of bed, didn’t I? 

I’m working from home.

I realize that “when it rains, it pours” but I was rather hoping to maintain some stability career-wise until I figure out my next move.  Ah, well!

What else have you got for me, 2015?

for better or worse

08.22.2015 – I dreaded facing this date for months.

what I used to think was going to happen


I do not recognize the girl in that January photograph – physically, emotionally, or otherwise. The end of the relationship was the end of her too.  I don’t mean this as hyperbole.  Nothing causes you to peel off facades faster than experiencing some of your worst fears.  Everything is different now.

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was.” – JKR

I’m sorry that it took too long to realize admit that our life had become forced.

The truth is that with how things were going, neither of us would have put ourselves first.  I could not have put energy into pursuing dreams while trying to hold together a relationship that wanted to shred itself apart every painfully scripted day; and she could not have put energy into figuring out what she really wants while trying to be what I needed.

I believe that our time together wasn’t a waste or a mistake just because it ended.  It would be dishonest to say it doesn’t still sadden me to reflect on good memories, remember the depth of love, and understand that ultimately we still failed to provide for one another what we each needed.  But it’s becoming more bearable pain, like nostalgia.

Above all, I hope she is for better.

I hope the same for myself.


Drowning Waters – an Open Letter

To the Grasping Urchin,

I didn’t ask you for anything.  And you never offered. I stood stripped, freezing, and alone – but smiling.  Nobody asked or noticed.  I did not begrudge them.

When you came around, grumbling and soliciting, as ever, I did not condemn you for it.  What had I ever been for you but another source of validation and support?

I merely said, for the first time, “Right now I cannot.  I have nothing to offer.”  You have no idea what it stripped from me to say as much aloud.  In that moment, I acknowledged that, years of effort to the contrary, I am incapable of saving a single other person, perhaps even myself at this point.

Why, then, would you choose this momentafter I admitted my limitationsto confess your anguish and need?

Would you like my last breath?

Unlike you, I never pulled anyone into the drowning waters with me or tried.  But I am not a buoy or a raft.  Your options are to claw your way to the surface or go under, just like the rest of us.

I wish you success, not luck.


Change – an open letter

To the Well-Meaning Meddler,

I must object to your recent attempt at intervention.

There is a difference between busted and lost.  I am not “repairing” myself.  If anything, I’m upgrading.  Truthfully, I’m still figuring it out; but I do know that it’s not a restoration project.  So you can stop waiting.

Just because I am different, perhaps even a stranger to you now, does not mean that I am in need of urgent assistance.  I’m sorry that so many of our previously shared commonalities have ended.  We both wish it was less awkward to relate these days.  But I am unfiltered and genuine—much more than beforeout of respect for you, my other loved ones, and myself.

Similarity is not the sole foundation of our friendship, nor should it be the basis of any strong bond because people must change.  I am confident we can move through this and get to know one another again.

However, I cannot be the girl you knew before – because I am not who I was.  Please cease to expect or ask that of me.

I hope we’ll understand one another again in the future.


How to Be Alone

Before this past April, I had never lived alone.

Nor has my brother.  Nor my sister.  Nor most of the close friends I polled today; two did for one month.  I do have a friend who told me months ago that she lived alone for about a year and it was an enlightening experience.  I also know two inspirational women living alone in their retirement (one divorced, onepossibly my future selfa self-professed “cat lady”).

I don’t think I actively avoided living alone.  The circumstances (e.g. relationship status, financial stability) never quite aligned to make such an option a viable consideration.

First, I lived with my parents, as it goes.  I shared my college dorm with five suitemates, then shared apartments with some of those same wonderful ladies.  Afterward, my then-partner and I moved into her mother’s basement.  When we saved a little money, we got our own place.

But now, for the first time, it’s just me.

Don’t get me wrong; I consciously chose this.  There are plenty of roommate locator resources available and I even looked into a few ads.  But part of me really wanted to know… what’s it like?

I’m an excellent student, but “how to be alone” is one lesson no human being can teach another.

I got a little, affordable place.  It has its quirks (pink tile bathroom, really!? I semi-recovered it with a cherry blossom shower curtain), but it’s a nice community overall.  I have chosen everything about the space very carefully and slowly, with a humble budget and without others’ opinions unless I request them.

11214201_10102481388649129_8520014165509733340_n11401304_10102481362336859_7567641696176261719_nI have minimalist tendencies and want to maintain my mobilityin the likely event that I move to another city within a year or two… contingent upon my career, which is going so well herebut the space is pretty bare even by my standards.  (See also: the Toast.)  I could certainly use a television stand and a bed frame, but I splurged on a very nice mattress.

Not to mention, I’m borrowing some of the furniture.  Still, what little I’ve acquired was given meticulous consideration.  “After all,” I continue to ask myself, “how often will I have the opportunity to restart my life, to discover and reinvent myself honestly, without outside influence?”

After only three months, I can say that nearly everything you’re likely to find online in a “Top 10” article about living alone is true.  The pros and cons are easy enough to brainstorm even without the hands-on experience.  I researched thoroughly prior to signing a lease.  I probably would have been a bit more anxious about it, but I was a little devil-may-care at the time.  Still, I was informed.

I knew what I was in for when I signed the lease.  But it is incredibly different, somehow, to go through with it day-in and day-out.

Actually, I don’t notice much of a difference on weekdays.  Admittedly, it can be jarring after a silly or spooky moment to turn around and remember that nobody witnessed it.  (It’s especially frustrating when those little moments don’t quite translate into stories-worth-sharing-later.)

But it’s largely easy enough to pass a single evening without wallowing in the throes of ennui; besides, plenty of social interaction takes place at my office.  In fact, I find that the more evenings I spend alone, the more I grasp the levity of the phrase “spending time” – it’s an actual expenditure of the most important commodity available to us.

Weekends are different.  For a long while, I kept myself constantly distracted, visiting everyone, traveling, filling my schedule to within an inch of requiring time travel.  Recently, realization struck – I’m avoiding the very thing I set out to do.


Attempted visual aid for my keep-doing-stuff fanaticism of late. (Note: I actually use my employee Outlook calendar more regularly even for personal appointments, but this one has the better aesthetic.)

I do not yet understand how to spend extended periods of time with just myself, which is to say, how to simply be.

Eventually, all of the busyness took a toll.  I find myself scatterbrained more often lately and greatly in need of some rejuvenation time.  So this past weekend, I decided to not run around frantically occupying myself and being social with anyone-and-everyone.  I wanted to focus on being alone, being comfortable with solitude.

On Saturday, I achieved very few of my original intended goals (do the laundry, finish reading a book, update LinkedIn, write something).  I tried to remind myself that I could simply relax and be gentler about excessive expectations for a while.  That life as I know it will not disintegrate before my eyes if I give less than 100% for a period of time.

Naturally, on Sunday I relapsed into productivity hyperdrive.  I appeased the guilt of declining social invitations just to laze around for an evening by ensuring I had quantifiable results of a stay-at-home weekend.

Yet, I’m starting to realize that nobody else notices the difference at all.

No outsiders can distinguish between when I spend a day alone in my apartment driving myself mad, a day alone in my apartment making active progress on Important Life Stuff, or a day alone in my apartment doing nothing at all.  Because I’m alone, in my apartment.

Since that thought parked itself in my consciousness, I fluctuate between feeling liberated, like I can do anything and feeling isolated, like nothing I do matters to the outside world.

I’m trying to shake it, but I feel a bit selfish all the time because everything I do now is for me.  I share it with nobody on a consistent basis, so most of what I buy, cook, or create is just mine. It feels so contrary to my core nature that for a long time I just didn’t.  I didn’t shop for groceries (unless the cat was nearly out of food).  I didn’t cook, but I’d eat food if it was there.  I didn’t write after an initial stint of processing through blogging (read: unfiltered feelings dump).

I dedicated my entire life to making others happy or proud.  I’m not sure if anyone along the way made me their central focus to that extreme.  And to be honest, I don’t think anyone should.  I’m a proponent of unselfish love, but we are the only ones capable of leading our own lives to fulfillment.

It’s hard, so much harder than I imagined, to learn at age 27 how to live alone and put myself first.  But I don’t regret choosing it.


to all of the allies

and to all of the lovers

to all of the screamers

the supportive parents, the accepting colleagues, the good neighbors

to the ones who glittered signs

and the ones who challenged us

(because the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory)

to the first girl, who taught me that I did actually feel something

and to the second girl, who taught me never to settle

to the future woman

and the many beautiful friends

to the authors whose books were banned

to the teachers whose careers were threatened

and to all those whose voices carried when sound itself was danger

Thanks for getting us here.


kill the perfectionista

She overtakes me slowly, but wholly.
None, not even I, hear her approach,
because she is remarkable,
and exactly who everyone prefers.

The Perfectionista has mastered life like science,
and holds me under so I cannot revert it to art.
She doesn’t mean to tyrannize me;
she assumes consciousness when I am lost.

Truthfully, I recreate my monstrous superior time and again,
devouring my Jar of Shoulds, ceding desire,
sidestepping paths I wantand therefore fearto pursue,
choosing, rather than realized self, the ideal standard.

It takes catastrophe to surface me.
When I see her, I hesitate to return,
because she is magnificent,
and exactly what everyone needs.

Outsiders’ reflections cue recognition,
noting peculiar virtues, successes.
She doesn’t mean to lobotomize me;
she champions defense when I am threatened.

Shamefully, I allow her to conquer me as well,
gulping my Bottle of Don’ts, relinquishing control,
feigning my way into best-loved automation,
escaping hardest truths through easiest scripts.

“Perfect” is not, has not been, and could never be a compliment.
If anyone sees it, be afraid,
not envious, nor intimidated, nor especially, proud.
And please help me.
help me kill her so I can live