What’s left to give up?

I have spent too much time doing what’s good and necessary, too much time shaping myself into what other people want me to be and too little time being the strong and independent, zany and liberal woman that I am on the inside. Why do I try so hard to fit into a mold? Why do I fight against who I am? Why am I always so afraid of standing up for myself?

It’s this sick and twisted fact of my life that I try so hard to please everyone that I once said “yes” to a marriage proposal and spent 18 months engaged to someone I didn’t want to be engaged to simply because I didn’t want to turn him down when he asked me to marry him (after 6 weeks of dating) on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but what about my feelings? What about me? When do I stop putting other people first and put myself first?

I know I should be in therapy to deal with all of these issues. There’s not just the engagement. There’s also the next man who came along, to whom I got married when I was pregnant because, god forbid, my family would be upset that I was pregnant and not married. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with me?

I need to make myself a manifesto, a credo to live by. I need to make a promise to myself that I will stop living for everyone else and start living for me. Other people do it. Other people stand up for themselves. It may be scary, but it’s possible. I know it must be possible. Terribly scary and difficult, but possible. And really…is there any alternative? I’ve pushed myself to the limit. I’ve gotten married for my family. I’ve stayed married for my children. I’ve given up on my education for my husband. I’ve dropped all my dreams, my wishes and my hopes for the people in my life who say they support me but manage to cut me down any chance they get.

What’s left to give up? I’ve become a shadow of myself, a wraith, a soulless woman without any hope for the future. If I am to get my hope back, if I am to dream again, I must start by being true to myself. I must start by standing up for myself. I must start by taking one little step at a time, toward escaping, toward freedom, toward love.

traffic light loving

The oddest thing happened tonight. 
I was sitting at a traffic light
windows rolled down
waiting for the green. 

I hear this guy in the next car over. 
This is what he's saying:

How you doing? 
What's going on? 

And I'm tuning him out. 
Not even turning his way. 
I figure he's on the phone with someone, 
but I didn't turn to look. 

Right about then
the light turns green
and I pull forward. 

As he's pulling forward, 
he yells, 
"I love you!"
and I finally turn to look at him
and I realize that, 
all this time, 
he's been talking to me. 

He yells,
"I fucking love you!" 
and drives off. 

I laughed the whole way home. 
It was hilarious. 
I've never seen that guy before.
I'll probably never see him again. 
Sure was funny, though. (:

sleepy at dusk in June

I woke up at dawn this morning. I tried to stay curled up under the covers, 
convinced that I would eventually fall back to sleep if I laid still 
and closed my eyes, but as is becoming more and more common, it didn't work. 
It was another late night followed by an early morning, and I feel like 
part of me has been rubbed raw by sandpaper or the rough concrete
on the bottom of a pool. 

Today I was unproductive, sleepy and often incoherent. The highlight
of my day was when the kiddos went out to pick black raspberries in the yard. 
I gave them a plastic bucket, and they tried to keep from eating them all 
before they even made it to the bucket. In the end, they had a heap 
of maybe two cups of berries or so. I sprinkled on sugar and added 
a splash of milk, and they were so happy. It's a simple summer ritual, 
one of the things I'll miss about living on a farm. 

Now it is almost dusk. The light's just starting to fade. I am sleepy, 
lightheaded and warm. I want nothing more than a long sleep 
in an air conditioned room, a glass of cold milk and either some soothing
music or the sound of rain. 

A couple of months ago, I bought several tracks of nothing but the sound
of water. One was the sound of rain falling. One was a babbling brook. 
Another was the sound of an underwater stream. Each track was close to
an hour long. I put them in a playlist I call my rain playlist, 
and sometimes I fall asleep listening to them. It's this hushing sound, 
soothing, similar to white noise or the whir of a fan in how it calms 
me down and makes my thoughts slow and my body relax. 

Now it is dusk. The fireflies are starting to come out. They're flickering
across the fields and in the treetops. I love fireflies. I love the way 
they make the balmy summer evenings seem magical. I love the way they 
remind me of my childhood, of evenings spent chasing them, catching them 
in between cupped palms and then setting them free and watching them 
fly away. 

Fireflies remind me of cold watermelon and fireworks. They remind me 
of lying on a quilt in my grandma's front yard, as my aunt and uncle 
set off fireworks and, for just a little while, life seemed okay, 
my family seemed okay and I felt like, if only for an evening,
I actually fit in. 

Now, every year, my neighbors set off fireworks, and we walk 
across the field and over by the barn so we can see better. 
I plan on getting the kiddos some sparklers if the grass isn't too dry
and I think they can keep from burning the ends of their fingers 
as the sparks fly. 

It's dusk. I'm sleepy. Once again, I'm going to bed alone.
I don't mind this much. I actually prefer it. I get to sleep
on one side of the bed for part of the night and the other side
for the rest of it. I am selfish with the covers. I hoard the pillows. 
I am always switching to the cool side of the bed. 

Sometimes I remind myself that I won't always be this alone
nor this lonely. Someday things will be different. Someday. 
But for now? Enough writing. I worry if I write much more, 
I'll expose parts of myself that I want kept secret, 
hidden rooms that I deny exist within me.

my quest to claim myself again

I’ve always been a dreamer, one of those girls who spends time lost in her own head, always thinking about something bigger and brighter. The future used to always shine. I could get through whatever was in my present because the promise of a tomorrow that was bright and shiny and new was always there to keep me wanting to go forward.

Somewhere along the line, though, I lost that forward-looking optimism. I suppose there was one blow (or ten) too many, and dreaming became something that I set aside and walked away from.

I was talking with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, and he said that we get to choose what we carry with us and what leave behind. We were talking about negative things and the importance of leaving them behind and walking away, but I just realized that this can apply to positive things too.

I set aside optimism in exchange for always seeing the gloomy, grey side of life. I thought that it would be what was best for me. I’d been disappointed and hurt so many times that I thought it would be best to stop hoping simply so that I’d stop being so disappointed and blindsided by naivety.

I do think, though, that maybe optimism is just what I need right now. Maybe it is a tool that I can use, within certain limits, to help me improve my view of life, of my present and of my possible future. I want to dream again. I want to believe that the things that I want to accomplish are within my grasp. It’s a scary thing to admit that, to admit that I want to hope and dream and even laugh more. I’ve been melancholy for years.

An example: for over five years, I wore only black. Everything I owned from my shoes and socks to my shirts to my bras and panties. Everything was black. It started when someone I loved died and I bought black clothing for the funeral. I wanted to honor her and express my grief, so I kept the black trend going for a week or so which turned into a month and then months and, finally, years.

I realize now, looking back on it, that it was this slow slide into depression. I let myself go, and along with that, I let go of my hopes, my dreams, my passions, my desires, let go of everything that made me feel alive.

Today, as I sit here typing this, I am wearing a mint green top and charcoal pants. My flip flops are pastel pink. I brought color back into my life, but I forgot to bring back the other more important things that I let go of. I forgot to bring back the dreamer me, the one who wishes on stars, who goes for walks just to watch the sunset, who picks wildflowers and berries and who constantly wants to learn something new.

It is that me that I crave. It’s that me that I yearn to get to know again, the me who makes her own soap out of lye, coconut oil and other essential oils, who goes for drives just for the pleasure of getting lost in the country, who isn’t afraid to try new recipes or talk to new people.

I know I haven’t lost her for forever. I know she’s still here somewhere. This is my quest to claim her for myself again.

fighting to escape

Who am I? It seems as though I am always searching for meaning, looking for “more”. I want my life to mean something to me, to my friends, to my children. I want to make a positive difference in someone’s life. I’m okay with that difference being miniscule. I just want to know that what I said or did mattered in some way.

I know that there have been writers I’ve read whose words have had the power to lift me out of my circumstances and transport me to another world, writers who have given me my dreams back when real life stole them away. I would like to be that type of writer, but if I can’t be that type of writer, maybe I could at least write something that would ease someone’s mind, that would make the day more enjoyable, something like a poem they could read aloud and get lost in.

That is one of the things that I love about Neruda’s poetry. I love reading him out loud. I feel like he is (and I do believe I’m not the first to say this) the people’s poet. He’s not a poet that you have to go to grad school to be able to understand. He doesn’t require me to have a dictionary next to his book so I can look up every word. I read him and I feel like I am lost in a forest or walking along a cliff by the seaside or meandering through a desert. He makes me want to get lost in nature for a while. He makes me want to learn the names of the wildflowers and the birds and paint each one of them into a poem.

Perhaps I should read more of him. Perhaps I should pull out this book of his that I love and once again devour his words, get lost in the wild lands he writes about, lands full of so much love.

I just know that I need to soak up someone’s words. I need to find my inspiration again, need to be passionate about my writing again. It has been too long, and I have felt the longing caking on me like rust or barnacles, like something that needs oiled or scraped off and removed.

Writing here is my attempt to reach out, to touch someone with my words, to be touched by the words I read in return. I’ve been a solitary creature for too long. I have been reclusive, antisocial, and so burdened by the mundane that I’ve just about given up on the passionate, creative, spiritual side of myself.

Writing here is teaching me that the part of me that I most love isn’t dead after all. It was simply in hibernation. Now I feel a tingle in my fingertips, the beginnings of a dream reawakening, and I breathe a sigh of relief that I’m making it through one of the darker chapters in my life.

I didn’t die that time that I tried. It was messy, and I learned what it was like to be hospitalized (more than once), but maybe all that has shaped me into who I am now. A fighter. An intense woman, a strong person full of compassion and love.

Now I need to turn my experiences into poetry or prose, mold it into something worth reading. I don’t know how to do that. When faced with the blank page, I feel this overwhelming sense of inadequacy, this overwhelming fear of failing. I need to overcome that, though, because my voice is fighting to escape.

inspirational to-do list

I stumbled across an interesting blog today. Actually, it was the ABOUT page that I found really interesting. I read through it. I actually read the entire page. It wasn’t boring, which I found surprising, because ABOUT pages are often mundane, uncreative and lacking in all the juicy bits that readers really want to read about.

This man’s ABOUT page made me want to revamp my admittedly uncreative and (dare I say it?) boring ABOUT page to instead share the juicy side of me. Now, for some reason, I am thinking of Juicy Fruit chewing gum in its bright yellow packaging, even though I’ve never been a big fan of Juicy Fruit and I don’t very often chew gum.

After reading his page, I decided to revamp today’s to-do list to include the following: order that copy of Ted Hughes’ poetry that I’ve been meaning to order, pull out Bitches Brew (Miles Davis) and give it a listen, and give my cacti names. In addition to those fun tasks, I am also going to paint my nails bright green, try out a new recipe for tilapia and try not to drink the entire pot of coffee.

hiding the only light I have

It’s late morning here, and I’m sitting here drinking coffee and wondering where this day will take me. There is so much cleaning that needs done here, but what I want to do is go out for a drive, feel the wind pushing my hair back, maybe go up to the overlook and sit on the rock up there and look out across the fields below.

At the same time, I want to spend the day devouring poetry, dipping into Sylvia Plath’s journals, scouring my thesaurus for new words and feeding my muse. It’s been too long since I’ve fed her, too long since I’ve soaked up words that inspire me to write. I am reminded of Bukowski’s “So You Want To Be A Writer”, and I’m a little angry at him for what he says in that poem. What if the words don’t come bursting out of me? What if I have to struggle and bleed them out? Like Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

So, here I am. I’m faced with the idea of sitting down and bleeding it all out. Indeed, writing has often felt that way to me. It’s so personal. I give so much of myself. What do I get in return? Does it matter? Do I dare write out the stories that are inside me? Do I dare expose myself in that way?

Poetry. It’s a way to take all the messy details of my life and lie them out in rows, a way to make order and (sometimes) meaning out of chaos. Maybe today will be the day I try to untangle the mess. Maybe today will be the day I start again, the day the poetry comes slowly bleeding out of me again. Would today be too soon? Am I ready? It scares me to open up and share myself. At the same time, it scares me to hide away the only light I have.