My Small Life

One of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail. I’ve written about it before, but I’ll say it again. I’m obsessed with writing letters, with connecting with someone through the written word. I wrote a friend of mine the other day, and I quoted that movie. These lines in particular seem to describe me too:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

This is me too. I’m cloistered, withdrawn. I have difficulty connecting with people in person. I suppose that writing letters is a way for me to communicate that is not quite so scary as communicating in person, and there is always time to allow an idea to percolate before having to share it. Sometimes I wish I lived a grander life, an exciting life, but I don’t.

I shop at little farm stands. The librarians know me by name. I know the one lane bridges on tiny country roads. I walk alongside the corn fields and pick wildflowers. I like baking pies. I know all these things about myself, but sometimes I still wonder who I am. I feel like the me that’s deep inside is the me that matters, and I can’t quite get her to come out of hiding.

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.

further down

The day skitters past her, 
shadowy and elusive. 

She reaches for it, 
but it slips and wriggles
like salmon fighting upstream, 
always upstream of her, 
just out of reach. 

The shadows lengthen, 
the sky greying 
as the fireflies 
punch through the gloom 
with their tiny lanterns
winking and winking. 

His face lights up 
in the flash of a match 
behind cupped hands,
and the scent of smoke 
snakes across the shadows
that lie between them, 
secretive 

like the way he used to talk to her
back when they shared a bed, 
tangled up their limbs and lives. 

He was always a sharp breeze
away from closing off, 
always one whisper away 
from telling her he loved her, 
and she imagined some nights
after they'd finished having sex
that he'd grabbed her hair 
in his fists
and pulled her face to his
and kissed her open mouth roughly
instead of pushing her face
and open mouth down, 
always open mouthed
and sucking 
further down.

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:

Hey!
Hi!
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. (:

I admit it: I’m addicted to YA fiction

I just finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago, after wanting to read it for years. I admit it. I have an addiction to Young Adult fiction.

This book was everything that I expected it to be and more. It’s a coming of age story, a story about a boy who’s quiet and often left out. Stephen Chbosky’s character Charlie says,

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

I like Charlie’s introspection, like the way that the book is set up as a series of letters he sends anonymously to a guy who’s a friend of an acquaintance of his. The book really allows the reader to get into Charlie’s head.

What I like best about Young Adult fiction like this is its honesty. When viewed through a YA lens, life seems so much clearer to me. Is this because I missed out on so much when I was a teenager? Am I trying to relive those years to pack more into them? I’m not certain. I only know that books like this one make me wanna read more, make me wanna write more, make me wanna connect with someone else and stop hiding in my shell.

I liked that Charlie was a reader and a writer, that he thought deeply about the people around him even to the point of over-thinking things. I wanted to take him out for coffee and a doughnut, wanted to sit down with him and Sam and Patrick and talk about life for a while.

I’ve always felt that I too was on the outside looking in, always felt like I didn’t quite belong. Through books like this one, I am able to access parts of me that I keep hidden and realize truths I didn’t know I believed until I read them and realized, “yes, yes, me too!”

 

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.