Saturday, March 25, 2017

Here It Goes, Here It Goes, Here It Goes Again

I found an old journal last week, written in initially as an 8 year old and then, once again, edited and foot-noted by a needlessly caustic 13 year old. You could almost hear the eye-rolling. She (13 year old me) couldn't fathom her (8 year old me's) boundless positivity and sincerity, and made sure to leave plenty of cutting comments. There was an also a healthy serving of swear words, likely because I'd just gotten accustomed to what they meant at the time and was enjoying the new flavor, turning them around on my tongue. I took up my own pen and, besides blocky enraged ballpoint and shaky ink scrawls, I wrote "calm down, love." So, I suppose that answers the common interview question of what I would tell my younger self.
Just calm down.

It's been a while, hasn't it? I wasn't really going to acknowledge the strange, 3 year absence - thought it might be best to ignore that particular elephant - but it seems that I can't write without at least a token "Hello again." So, hello again. I turned 19 this February. I'm just about to finish my freshmen year of college - a creative writing major, because that's bound to be lucrative - and have, despite what my 13 year old self may have believed, survived all of life up to this point. How are you?

In regards to my College Experience, I could regale you with stories of underage children drinking, doing drugs, the parties and late night drives. My weirdly cinematic and yet, somehow, anticlimatic first kiss (of my adulthood, that is. I suppose my 5-year old kissing sessions don't count.) The varied professors, classmates, upperclassmen and on-campus baristas who I've managed to charm, and how I've unwittingly been elected into a student office due to throwing some very well-received parties. But no, I won't. You've likely heard enough college stories to fill a very depressing, alcoholic book, and I think you deserve better than that.

An interesting realization: I have, by which means I dare not guess, become a sociable person. I am still, in many ways, an introvert who enjoys the pleasure of her own company, but some strange and unknowable metamorphosis has occurred in the past three years. I went from a sarcastic caterpillar to a social butterfly. This change has been even more evident since I arrived to college and, being exposed to a few hundred more people than I normally would be, I've become even more outgoing. Excusez mon fran├žais, mais ce que la baise?

(Oh, that's another thing. French. I'm enjoying it, though whether or not I'm proficient at it has yet to reveal itself. Que sera, sera, and all that.)

It's funny, but whenever people compliment my social skills, or conversational skills, or make some comparative remark about their own lack of extroverted confidence, I feel like an imposter. Me, an extrovert? I laugh. Oh no no no, I'm the most pessimistic introvert you've ever seen! I tell them. But in all honesty, I'm unsure if that's still true. As a moody 13 year old, it most certainly was. But I haven't been a moody, depressed 13 year old in a while now, and my grip on my identity is slipping through my fingers. I wonder if I'm really an imposter, or if this is merely what it means to grow up.

One way or another, my strange new social skills have allowed me to get on good terms with, well. Pretty much everyone I meet. There are very few exceptions - only 2 or 3 come to mind. I throw compliments like confetti in my wake and oh, to see the way people light up! The other night I attended my first frat party (an ill-advised experience, on all accounts) and as I went striding towards the exit, a flock of drunken girls in denim shorts shouted out "You look like a woman on a mission! You look fierce!" When I thanked them prettily and told them they all look gorgeous, the entire group shrieked as though they'd been shot. So, life tip to moody 13 year olds: learn how to give (and receive) compliments. Trust me.

However, some of my little tweenage eccentricities remain. I learned, as a newly-dubbed adolescent in my sister's very thin, very pretty shadow, that the easiest way to remain out of pictures was to always, always be the one who offered to take them. Hence, I have spent the last 7 or so years as a voyeur, always offering to take snapshots and declining gratefully, though emphatically, when invited to get in the picture. I take thousands of candids when I'm in groups - I do so prefer candid pictures to those that are posed. The former seems more organic to me - and, while my acquaintances delight at the pictures I take of them, very rarely am I photographed in turn. I don't mind.

Well - I didn't mind, at age 13. I took a certain vicious, masochistic pleasure in it, like pressing down on a bruise. Nowadays, I've grown past the majority of my conviction that I'm a hideous, horrible creature. While I'm willing to be photographed, it seems I have been too-long accustomed to hiding behind the lens, and fall into habits so easily. Thus, few pictures of me are out there.
I guess I don't mind. Just something to work on.

I'll ask again, now that we've come to the end of this stream of consciousness.
How are you?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Letter I Won't Write to My Dad (Or, alternatively, Why I Am Not His Fucking Ghost Girl)

I know, I know it's been a while. Sorry about that.
I've been dealing with a whole new breed of demons lately and I didn't- well. I guess I didn't want to worry anyone. Which sounds stupid, I know, but I've found that on most social networking sites, I'm fiercely protective of my followers' well beings. I don't want to unnecessarily stun or upset or offend. And I certainly don't want anyone to worry. Sure, that's foolish, but I've been doing a lot of foolish things within the past couple of months, all of which without anyone knowing. No one worried then, so why cause concern now, right?

The reason I'm back is because tonight, my ex-dad made a facebook post lamenting that it was the anniversary of my parent's divorce before he then forwarded the post via email to my family members, with an attached 4 year old family photo (he had to email us, seeing as to he how blocked us all on facebook last year). And I was going to write my typical patronizing, analytical, grandiose email replies that I never send, and then possibly post it and/or vent all my anger on this blog, but I just. didn't. I couldn't quite muster up the rage.

I consider my father as a very sad man. Not, per se, depressed, insomuch as his mere existence makes other people sad. He's self-obsessed, quick to drink and raise his voice, has some serious subconscious misogyny, some variant of OCD and is pretty delusional. Last I'd heard he sold our family house in the suburbs and was living in an apartment in the city, still working the job he's hated since I was born and dating a string of 30-40 something women with their own "daddy issues". He's manipulative, whether consciously or unconsciously so, readily fakes emotions and needs to be in control.

Despite all those horrible things that I could spend years analyzing, defining and diagnosing, and despite all of the pain and suffering he's caused my loved ones, my hatred towards him won't do anything. I can't go back in time and prevent my parents from marrying, can't kill him as a child nor can I kill him now. None of those actions would accomplish anything, nor would I want them to: In a way, all of those horrible years and black days are what makes my family my family. Sure, they might be happier- but they would not be the people I have endured so much through, the people I have banded together with and ridden out hurricanes through.

(the irony doesn't escape me that the only hurricane we ever endured in all our years in Florida was my dad)

Besides, he doesn't know he's done anything wrong. He's childish, in those regards- completely lacking in any sort of empathy or self-awareness. We were all baffled as to why he sent my sister a happy birthday last year: my sister, whom he spent years psychologically and physically abusing. But to him, wishing her a happy birthday and grounding her for taking too long to reply to a question are one in the same concept: parenting. He doesn't know what he's done. He'll never know what's done. And in those regards, I can't really blame him.

 I mean sure, he's given me plenty of issues. Caused cracks in the foundation of my family that may never be fully repaired. But all of the anger and hatred and resentment I may feel towards him won't accomplish anything but slowly charring me from the inside out, leaving nothing but ashes and a ghost in their wake. My father will never give his daughters closure, because he will never consider that my sister and I might need closure at all. And in those regards, he's the same as a child. Quick to upset and whine, desperate for attention and affection, uncaring and unknowing of the consequences their actions may have. I may never forgive my father, nor do I think I will ever love him, but actively hating him won't do me any good.

Last night I had a dream that my entire family was spending time together, going out to a lunch or movie or event and trying to force smiles as we so frequently once would. And my mother said something innocuous, as she once would, and my father went quiet and dangerous, as he once would, and my sister took too long to answer a question, carefully debating which answer would be least likely to incite his wrath, as she once would, and my father inevitable exploded, as he always would. And I gripped him by his meaty arm and dragged him away from them, as I never have, and I exploded right back.

I can't remember what my dream self said, exactly? but it was an endless stream of cold observations, of his failures, of his inevitable isolation, of his complete inability to make himself happy in life, how he will die alone and unsatisfied, having reaped nothing more in his life than the bitterness he'd sown. I didn't, however, castrate him with a spork. Didn't give him two pretty black eyes and knuckle sandwich, didn't gouge his eyes out with a melon baller. I didn't perform any of the expansive, descriptive actions I've dreamed up over the years. The only time I ever touched him was to to drag him away, and then I just talked. Seriously, I don't know what the hell I said but I chewed his dream-self out pretty thoroughly.

He went quiet. In a different way- not the hair-raising stillness before a storm, not the ringing silence before the explosion of a bomb- quiet, like a chastised school boy. And I left him there, standing quietly off to the side, not quite meeting my eyes, and I walked back to my family; my beautiful, broken, ridiculous little family, and-
and then I woke up.

I thought, maybe this is a sign I'm getting better. maybe this is my psyche stepping in the right direction.

Then I got a message from him tonight and I couldn't summon any biting words or sizzling resentment. Just sort of a hollowness, an open space. Maybe my subconscious specifically made note of the anniversary of my parent's divorce. Maybe it just takes some ~12 months to grow out of your feelings of resentment. Maybe the director of my life story just thought it'd be appropriately cinematic. But whatever the case, I think it's good. I like having that hollow space now, not singeing the cavities of my chest. I'm happy that his actions won't burn me up; that I won't be his fucking ghost girl.

Sometimes recoveries aren't giant confetti cannons or getting the perfect apologies or getting to act out every violent fantasy you've ever concocted on your abuser. The world won't always be kind, and it will pretty regularly be cruel, and sometimes we won't be able to have a fairytale character come make it all better. Sometimes we have to make ourselves okay, and know that having cracks in our foundation doesn't mean we're irreparably broken. And sometimes, when a 50 year old manchild makes a whiny post on facebook, you don't write a reply.

Sometimes, it's the little victories that count.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Please, I Want So Badly for the Good Things to Happen

I first found that Sylvia Plath quote sometime in the middle hours of last night, in between forming a girl gang and calling the suicide prevention hotline.

I should probably clarify that the girl gang is entirely in it's formative years and that we haven't actually done any awfully gang-related events so far, but we've got big plans. They mostly include buying people ice cream and beating up people who don't respect pronouns, but as the apparent founder of the gang I'm pretty open to suggestions. There's still some 50-60 applications for the gang that appeared in a blaze of glory last night just sitting in my inbox, but I really haven't had the time or inclination to go through them just yet. Evidently, I'd be the kind of gang leader whose more inclined towards smoking from a whispery little black cigarette holder and listen to Etta James croon in the background, rather than actually go through paperwork and pay bills or something.

As for the second while adventure I had last night, a close friend posted a suicide threat on her blog at around midnight. I actually haven't considered suicidal actions since Christmas a few year's past, and haven't had thoughts of self harm since spring last year, so! That's good. I guess. But the majority of last night's proceedings consisted of me sobbing breathlessly at my laptop screen and shivering alone at the kitchen table. It's funny how the shock of a suicide threat can make a person shiver for a good hour or two, even when you sit right next to the heating vent. I've never considered myself the shiver and faint kind of girl, but I guess we all surprise ourselves sometimes.

Long story short, I stayed up till 1 AM last night speaking to a hotline counselor named Karen and constantly refreshing my friend's blog. Then I walked my dogs in the bitter cold around the empty elementary school along our house, went to bed and woke up at 8 am the next morning to watch Sunday Morning. There was a segment on Parisian traveling trunks and another on Tootsie Pops.

After my sister left to go to church with her boyfriend's family (a new and similarly novel concept, but she's yet to really pull us aside for the Big Faith Talk [even though we've all realized she essentially converted some 5 years ago] and we haven't brought it up) and I sat by my mother on the couch and admitted that I'd spent the last night talking to a suicide hotline. I really only told her because Karen was very kind and extended her compliments towards my mother parenting, so I felt kind of obligated to pass the compliment along. My mother was full of good will and concern and kindness and other such positive adjectives and actually supported my sleep deprived, "stare at the ceiling fan on a cold night at 1 AM and randomly think about knitting your suicidal friend a sweater" idea.

Then I decided I needed canine therapy and I left to go volunteer at the animal shelter for an hour.

The animal shelter is also A New Development in the bustling lives of your typical post-divorce American femme-family, along with the fact that my sister, despite being adamant in her desires of us adopting two dogs back in Florida, has now decided she dislikes the dogs and claims they want to kill her. She yells whenever they jump up to hug her, and it sometimes seems as though she'd rather strangle herself with their leashes than walk them. My mother and I are united in our bafflement and concern regarding her sudden dislike of our dogs, but I guess it's her opinion and she's entitled to it- whatever circumstances that brought it about notwithstanding (and unknown).

I, on the other hand, have decided to hell with it all and begun volunteering at the animal shelter because heaven knows my sister's racked up enough volunteer hours for a small armada so I should probably also do something and wow I really like dogs and. Yeah, that was pretty much my entire though process. I haven't been certified to help with the cats yet, but the dogs are actual lumps of furry joy. I could (and probably will) fill this entire entry with nothing but excited jabberings regarding all the different dogs at the shelter and my nicknames for them and the volunteer politics etc. etc. but that's really not important.

Anyway, I got to walk dogs and then throw lipstick on and go buy some 10 skeins of yarn at Jo-Anne fabrics before stalling around in the needle aisle as I anticipated the reply of my friend as to which color she'd rather her sweater be; navy blue or cherry red. She chose cherry red, by the way.

Then my mother got a coffee from Panera and I took selfies that got 200 some notes and I profusely thanked and apologized to my mother for essentially every aspect of the day while she sipped her coffee and we worried over the encroaching rain clouds. On the way home I ran in to a grocery store and bought a whole can of vanilla frosting and received an email that one of my playlists had received a long-awaited gold achievement and then I went home, made a microwave cookies and doused the thing in melty Pillsbury frosting goodness.

This entire entry sounds horrifically vain and self centered and not at all the kind of blog post you'd expect to follow an intro that announces girl gangs and suicide threats. But all in all, today was a horrifically good and absurdly kind day and I'm really just baffled by it and desperately wishing I could send even half the lovely things I enjoyed today to my friend. I don't understand how I can be so lucky as to have an amazing day, following a night spent crying my heart out in broken pants because it seems as though one of my oldest friends is about to kill herself.

I don't know why today was so nice. I do know that I still haven't replied to any of the 50-60 applicants in my inbox, and I feel awful about that. I feel awful about a lot of things. Mostly, I'm just confused.

When I saw the Sylvia Plath quote last night it resonated so fiercely in my tear tired eyes that I felt as though someone infinitely more eloquent had somehow managed to summarize my situation in a single sentence without having any idea what the context was. I know that isn't the case, that I'm taking the quote itself out of context to fit my needs, but I think the majority of life is spent applying your situation to mundane things in a desperate bid to make it yours. I went out to breakfast the other day, and a woman found a penny on the railing behind her table. She asked the waitress about it, and the waitress explained that she had jars and jars full of them back home, so she liked to leave lucky pennies scattered for passing customers. The woman, slightly crestfallen, muttered that she'd thought it'd been a message from her father.

Life is full of pennies that could be from overworked waitresses or deceased dads. Sometimes, we're going to misinterpret things in order to help ourselves. We'll be illogical and vain and selfish in our needs, but sometimes that's okay.

When I saw that Sylvia Plath penny, I wished on the line like a prayer or a falling star or a lucky penny. I suppose my folly was in failing to specify who it was that I so frantically wished the good things for.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Nice to Be Alive

Everyone says the stars are brightest on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

From a scientific standpoint, I'm sure they're right. But somehow, tonight, the stars seemed brighter. There is a crispness to the air, an iciness that shivers down your throat and burrows into a crevice of your lungs, lending a sort of sheen to every hovering cloud of your misted breath. You can hear the whoops and yells of revelers, the answering whine of police cars rushing to scenes of drunken misadventures, the sharp, canon-fire BANG of fireworks echoing out across the night sky.

Maybe some day, when I'm older, I will listen to classy jazz songs and sip elegant Whiskey Sours and Diamond Martinis from silver glasses as I silently herald the coming new year. But I'm not some vague, faceless, classy adult just yet. I'm a ridiculous teenaged girl, my skin rife with acne and my nails chipped with nail polish, who watched the Star Trek 2009 movie for the millionth time tonight while sipping a cocktail made with Sunny-D and sparkling apple cider. I will be leaving no perfectly-smudged lipstick kisses on stranger's lips tonight, won't be popping any shimmering silver party poppers. But despite that, I can still smell the gunpowder in the night air. A side effect of the fireworks, I suppose- faint, but noticeable.

I actually don't remember what I did for New Year's last year. Can't recall if there were any specific songs played or resolutions said, have no clue if any sparkling-something was poured or countdowns made. But I do know everything that came after New Year's Eve, all that occurred in 2013. I can remember the smiles and tears and laughter and screams, the afternoons spent wandering around forests and reading to my grandmother, volunteering with dogs and pointedly ignoring my sister. I know that I have made it through a messy, immature, formative year. This is the year I changed my handwriting, discovered red lipstick and learned the chemical composition of gunpowder.

And even if, years from now, my handwriting has changed once more and I no longer wear red lipstick- if I've become that "classy", jazz-listening, Whiskey-sour-sipping lady, I will still smell the gunpowder in the rapid fire POP of my party poppers- faint, but noticeable.

And I will remember the little house at the end of the lane, with it's shared bedrooms and dog-haired carpets. I will remember what I survived in 2013, and I will remember the composition of sulfur, charcoal and potassium nitrate.

Here's hoping 2014 makes a bang for all of us.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Faint (but Pretty) Smell of Vanilla

There was an old white farmhouse along the main road to my home.

Two stories with a big black door and white columns hunched like a crone's shoulders. No real driveway, per se, just an indent in the raised curb wide enough for a car and warped piece of metal that may have, at some point, been a gate. The house was weedy and overgrown, brick chips littering the yard and streaks of brown along the walls where the paint had dried and chipped away. It was, in a single word, ramshackle.

And I loved it from the first time I saw it.

It was the kind of house that kids discover in movies, that warrants ouija boards and salt lines. It looked like behind it's slowly-sagging garage there might be a secret garden, or perhaps a long-rotted body; that was the kind of intriguing enigmity it had. Sometimes I saw bikes sprawled out along the faint impression of a maybe-driveway, and once or twice there was a big gray truck. But I ignored it and simply wondered what it would be like inside, what back door I could slip through, what abandoned memorabilia might lay scattered within. I kept thinking that once my bike was fixed, once it's disused tires were re-pumped, I could bike out there by myself one day and hide the bike behind the garage, bring my camera and best boots and just wander up and down the stairs.

My love of the house was no real secret- I'm a bit rubbish at concealing what I find interesting or lovely. And almost every time we passed it, I'd mention it to whomever was driving. Once or twice I even talked to my aunt or mom about going to visit it together in an attempt to lessen their concerns- but they inevitably clammed up once I mentioned going inside or, heaven forbid, going upstairs.
So after a while I let it be and stopped bringing it up. But whenever we were driving home I would always look up from my book or pause the conversation to just watch as it flicked past, it's distant glass windows full of secret rooms and mysteries.

Was it childish? Yeah, I know it was. But with a house like that, who couldn't be childish?

Today, however, on a ride home from an impromptu breakfast run, I saw something odd behind the copse of trees that ringed the wild yard. I saw a flash of fresh wood, of bright wood, the young underbelly that you can always find within a splintered board. And, mid-sentence, I gasped (yes, I actually gasped) because it was gone. The house was little more than a pile of brick and wood chips, shattered glass and brass nails. And there, to the side of the still-standing garage, was the gray truck. And besides that, a bright orange excavator.

My mom cut off from the conversation as we drove past. She didn't necessarily get how enchanted I was with the concept of the house, but she knew I was enchanted.
My eyes watered a little.

But then, we were back to picking and choosing from our plethora of menial topics and the house was behind us. And then we were home, and I showered, and forgot about it.
I realized, suddenly, that I had no pictures of it. I'd never taken any, not even a blurry drive-by, and it was unlikely I would ever find one online or in the papers.

That was when I sat down and wrote this.

I'm still surprised at how easily I forgot about it. How the eradication of something that I was fascinated by for such a long a time could be so effortlessly dismissed. And it made me sad about how I never took the initiative with the house, how I took it's continued presence for granted, how I'll never be able to climb the creaking stair or peek through the stained windows. And I know, of course, that it wouldn't be that enchanted- that I was more likely to find beer bottles than decades-old mysteries. But the house was so effortlessly romantic that I probably would've loved it just as much if it had nothing but peeling walls and floors plastered with old dirty magazines.

I mean, I probably would've scooted the magazines to the side a bit. But I don't think it would have diminished any less in my appraisal of it.

But my dismissal of it, how easily I would forget to prioritize it's exploration, how someone must've forgotten about the house in the first place to let it achieve it's state of disrepair- despite how grand it must've once been, how elegant it must've once seen, sitting stately by the road. How does one forget about a whole house?

And as I thought about that I remembered a line from my most recent addiction, a podcast called Welcome to Night Vale (which is just fantastic and everyone should listen to at least once):

"[But then] you move on. And the event is behind you. And you may find that, as time passes, you remember it less and less—or not at all, in my case. And you are left with nothing but a powerful wonder at the fleeting nature of even the most important things in life— and the faint, but pretty, smell of vanilla."

And the line struck me as freakishly accurate, scarily resonant, And it brought to mind another, better known quote, by the graffiti artist Banksy- "-they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

And both those lines made me sad. Because I know that time passes and memories, thoughts and priorities fade. People come and go, "home" can turn into a condo or a mansion or the back of your car. Nothing is truly concrete in life, and everything will crumble in the tsunami of time. But coming to terms with the inevitable destruction and second death of this world, of this life, is a lot different than accepting it. Which isn't to say I'll attempt to defy a force so infallible as time- better people than I have attempted, and Lord knows that way lay madness. I'm just not entirely comfortable with it, not just yet.

That's okay, though. I'm only a teenager. I've got years and years for people to come and go, for home to change it's definition another dozen times, to find more old houses and forget to explore them until it is again too late.
I've got years to grow accustomed to that faint, but pretty, smell of vanilla.