Weigh Me Down

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“I want the memories of my life to weigh me down”

Last week I had the privilege to attend a luncheon with Sandra Cisneros. It was remarkable for many reasons but one of the one of most intriguing revelations came with a prompt she offered the small group: make a list of ten things you want to forget but you can’t. I instantly thought this was a great prompt and made a note of it so that I could try it when I got home and possibly use it in a future workshop or class. After all, with my bundle of regrets, embarrassments, and shame, such a list could practically write itself, right?

tumblr_lyvnfgtOmb1qcwph1o1_250The trouble is, when I got home and put pen to paper, I couldn’t think of a single memory I wanted to forget. My memory is not as good as it used to be. It could be that I may have already forgotten or blocked out some really painful events. But as I went through the list of hardships which have affected my little world, heartbreaks, mistakes, regrets, disasters, tragedies, there wasn’t one that I truly wanted to be completely forgotten.

I thought about the people I lost, my grandmother in her hospital bed, my grandfather’s funeral, the unexpected and heartbreaking deaths of friends taken far too soon.  I thought about natural disasters which have taken not only my loved ones, but have caused so much pain to so many. These are painful memories, but they are also important memories. Maybe I will forget them in time, but for now, they remain with me for a reason. I don’t want to forget them because doing so would mean I was blinding my eyes and forgetting those people. Maybe it would lessen the pain of loss, but I need those memories and if they come with weepy eyes, so be it.

d15421d171f8f9ea073f28119c91c6d6I thought of the man made horrors of this world, the starvation, the hate, the racism. I thought of mass shootings and children dying at the hands of children. There are so many in this world who suffer every day. It may seem like an obvious wish to be able to forget all the hate in the world, but I never would. I need this knowledge. How can I help make the world a better place if I do not acknowledge the wrong that is out there?

I thought of embarrassing moments, times I was open or vulnerable only to be hurt. Times I acted the fool because of love or infatuation or alcohol. Plenty of things I wish I had never said. Some late night phone calls and text messages which I wish had gone unsent. Moments of selfishness and jealousy. Times I blindly followed the crowd instead of standing up for myself and my beliefs. That one night at Karaoke. (Okay there may have been more than one night at Karaoke.) There is pain I caused. People I have hurt. I have made loved one’s cry. I have been cruel. Those memories give me no pleasure and fill me with remorse. To this day, I still think of what I should have done in certain situations. How I could have been different, been better. I beat myself up over it.

I try not to dwell on those regrets but at the same time I don’t want to lose the memory of them. I’ve learned from them. I hope to have more grace because of them.

cropped-cropped-rabbit2.pngMaybe I would be happier if I cut out some of the more difficult parts of my life. I’ve suffered my share of life’s bullshit and I have plenty of regrets weaved into my memories. I have a good share of baggage and anxieties due to my life experiences. But those feelings, however foolish or painful, have provided me with the tools I use to get through each day.

My memories hold lesson and, as I try so desperately to be a better person, I need to remember those lessons.

I will always hold regrets. My mind will continue to wish I had said or done something different. I wish I had one last conversation with my grandfather before he passed and that I hadn’t pursued a hopeless relationship. I regret I wasted my time and energy on certain people. I regret I didn’t spend time and energy on certain people. And plenty more. But I did those things. I did all those the things, the good and the bad, and those things have added up to make me the person I am.

I don’t like myself much on most days. I wish I was prettier, smarter, thinner, wittier. I wish I could do more. I wish I was less reclusive and more driven. I wish I could save the world. But overall this is my lot in life and I am grateful for it. It may come with some baggage and I may still be a work in progress, but I have worked hard and I got it pretty good right now.

Those memories, the good, the bad, the ugly, they are all pieces of my puzzle. I need them to finish my portrait.

Lost

d15421d171f8f9ea073f28119c91c6d6I am sad beyond explanation. I am reclusive and hopeless. I am weak and powerless. This is my broken mind. I can’t fix it.

The drugs, the therapists, the psychiatrists, the meditation, the music, the writing, the running can’t fix it.

My mask is too heavy. Instead of strapping it on, I seclude myself. I can be of no help to anyone like this.

I dread interactions. I dread small talk, conversations with friends, making eye contact with a cashier.  I cannot focus. I repeat myself. I forget.  I do not know how I will be able to go back to work and function in my career.

There is no trigger for this mood. No sudden tragedy to explain it away. No trauma from which I need to heal. I am not mourning a loved one or a failed ambition.

There is so much which I have to be grateful. I know I am fortunate. I know I am privileged. I know I have no right to feel this way and I am overwhelmed with guilt for these feelings.

This is not poetry; it is confession. This not therapy; it is clarification. I am not asking for commiseration or sympathy. I do not need cheering or company. I don’t want pity.

I am lost. I have always been lost. I will always be lost.

I want to be forgiven.

I want peace.

Words Words Words

Words are powerful.

We never really know how people are going to respond to our words, to us. We never know what kind of impression we make on others. What they keep and what they will take away. Words need to be respected for their power, for their ability to do harm, as well as good. They should be used wisely and with intention.

I believe every individual, every writer, poet, artist, student, newscaster, naked crazy man, has the right to express themselves. I believe in freedom of speech and expression.

I have heard and read words that have changed my view on the world. Words that have left an imprint on the person I am today. Words can educate, they can inspire, they can start wars and end them. Words can cut and they can heal.
When we are young, when we are learning, we must have the freedom to experiment with our words, with our beliefs, and with our interpretations of the world. This is how we learn. We must have the freedom to explore our voice and perspectives. To learn new ideas and chop them fine and blend them into what makes a mind its own.

I am a writer. I write because it helps me understand the world. One of the hardest things for any writer to learn is how to murder the angel that holds her tongue. That sweet darling who shakes her head in disappointment dare that writer say the wrong thing. It took me fifteen years to kill what Virginia Woolf dubbed the angel in the house. Writers know that a voice doesn’t develop over night.

As a teacher I will be damned if I teach a single student to listen to the angel which perches on her shoulder. Telling them what to say and what to ignore, telling them it’s time to keep your mouth shut.

As a writer, as a teacher, as member of the human race, I want to inspire others; I want to understand myself and my world. I want to open others up to the possibilities of all they can be.

These are lofty goals, I know.

For the last several years I have had my students analyze a poem by Shane Koyczan entitled “This is my Voice.” The poem created a mantra allusive to the rifle man’s creed: “This is my voice, there are many like it, but this one is mine.”

After some analysis and discussion the students get the root of the poem: their voice can be a weapon. Their voice has power. Their voice can create change in this world. Many of the heroes Koyczan refers to, such Martin Luther King, Gandhi, John Lennon, were murdered for their beliefs. But that didn’t stop their words from making a difference.

As a teacher, if I didn’t teach students to stand up for what they believe in, I wouldn’t be doing my job. I want to teach students the power of their words, I want them to find and develop their voice in a safe environment. Learning how to speak for one’s self and develop critical thinking skills is a process that should occur in our school systems. If not, what are we teaching our children except the regurgitation of facts?

There will always be someone, some faction, some group, who may not see things your way. Those people have the right to argue, to state their own opinion, to discuss fact and issues, to agree or disagree. That is freedom of speech.

This world is a colorful place full of colorful people who believe colorful things. No one should have the power to suppress someone else’s beliefs. Yet it still happens. It happen all the time, around the world, despite our efforts.

These issues need to stay fresh in our collective consciousness. They to be kept alive though discourse and exchange. We need to remind each other as well as ourselves, the importance of our individuality. We need to give each other and ourselves the strength and courage to take a stand for what we believe and nourish an essential sense of community.

It is not easy. But nothing worth fighting for ever was. Words have the power to insight revolution, they have the power to demonstrate opinion, and they have the power to make a change. Words have the power to heal. If we restrict out words due to fear or intimidation, we don’t develop the skills to create words that can cause change, that can empower, that can heal.

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Swear

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She swears there’s a constellation in the shape of a butterfly cresting the corners of the moon. She also swears she’ll pick you up at two and she will take you to the zoo. You wear the pink dress she bought you and lace up your new shoes. Can’t wait for her playful scold: “Tennis shoes with a dress? Oh baby, how does your father let you leave the house.”

She says, we’ll stand like flamingos and get chocolate dipped ice cream. She tells you to remember your sun screen. She calls at 2:30, says she is running late, got a flat, but don’t worry, those sea lions slap their hands all day long.

She used to tell you there were butterflies in your hair and pretend to catch them before dancing a shiny wrapped candy before your eyes. She had the most beautiful smile. You couldn’t wait to see all those white teeth, to feel her hand stroke your hair like a well fed cat.

Dad tells you to come inside and eat lunch, but you stomp your stubborn feet and say you’re holding out for ice cream cones and caramel corn.

She used to warn you about telling lies and pulling the wings off of butterflies. Don’t destroy beautiful things: like truth, like paper.

You dig your toe into the dirt and pretend not to hear the telephone. You pretend not to hear your father’s huff and exasperated sigh, pretend not hear his sharp tone: “She’s sitting outside waiting for you,” waiting, waiting, waiting for you.

You stare intently at little white butterflies swarming the lemon bush. You haven’t smiled in hours.

She told you once, when she was braiding your hair, that the sun wasn’t really setting, it wasn’t really going anywhere; we were the once spinning and we were the ones always moving. Sometimes so fast, it is hard to see faces clearly, like the flap of a butterflies wing. Sometimes we had to be pinned down, held under glass, sprawled and fixed to keep still, to be watched.

You told her butterflies are prettier when they are flying and she agreed.

You’re cold now. Father sweeps you up from the concrete steps. You rub your face with a sleep fist, too tired to admit you’re hungry.

“Princess, time for bed.”

You croak a stubborn, “No,” but your body rolls easily into his arms, knees to chest.

It is not the first night he put you to bed still wearing pink laced tennis shoes. You pretend not to hear him when he mutters under his breath, “I swear, this will be the last time.”

Eye of the Storm

The walls of my room are painted blue, a light sky color. My mother did that.

During the summer of 1995, I add a thick grey moon to the corner and paint a roll of ocean waves across the wall. It makes me feel less land bound and closer to the Pacific.

I take down my posters of Mike Patton and Kurt Cobain and instead sit in a blue and white bed surrounded by my hand made sea.

An island of my own creation.

But this afternoon I retreat to the floor of my closet and close the door. I withdrawal in my anger and frustration, a pack of razor blades, shiny and new. How they whisper in the spots of light that peek around wooden door.

The waves grow over my head. A hurricane circling. I can hear it shake the walls. My carpet is blue. My skin carries the white spots of cigarette burns across thighs. A lovely constellation.

I sit in the closet with the winds whipping across the ocean, so unlike the rough of the Pacific Ocean New Mexico dragged me from.

A bitten lip.
A pack of razor blades.
The rattle of the wind.
A face sticky with tears.
Body exhausted from the struggle.
I stop swimming.

When the razor slices my skin everything stops. There is no pain. The split so perfect. It doesn’t bled right away, the skin merely parts and with it comes stillness.

No longer does the wind whip my hair or the furniture hit my kneecaps. I am in the eye of the storm, suddenly very calm. A strange possession takes me from the cave and walks me slowly through the currents.

Screams and yells are unheard as I methodically doctor the fresh wound.

I am careful to avoid attention, to slip in medicine cabinet for bandage, and slip back to my island. I lay flat on blue bed, watching the hurricane turn back to poorly painted waves and remind myself I am in the desert.

I am land bound and dry.

Words

Sometimes I wish I could read people’s minds. Silence is a language I could never truly decipher, and your body movements play a game which I never knew the rules.

I wish I could read your mind because despite the transparency of eyelashes and the patience of statues, I am still easily fooled. I want to believe every word you told me. I have the power of avoidance, of suppression, of wait long enough it will go away. I am well trained at watching things go away. My grip is unsteady and triangular.

I am most insightful when I am silent. I am unable to think and speak at the same time. I am unable to travel backwards and identify the words I should have said, the perfect words.

I am not gentle with the things that are most precious to me. Perhaps if I was, then I would be able to read the lines around your eyes when you look at me.

If I had one power it would be that of kindness. If I could change one thing it would be that you smile when you think of me.

Love Story

I didn’t love you when I first saw you, despite the eagerness in the meeting of our eyes. Perhaps lust, perhaps flirtation, but it took moons for love to create rings within the trunk of my core. You had to leave a mark, a stain, first strange and terrifying until I found the beauty inside the chaos.

I can’t pinpoint the day when just the mention of your name sparked my smile. When I knew I loved you. There was no dramatic moment. No shared revelation. It just slipped through the air in the familiarity of your laugh and the kindness of your touch. The way you unknowingly proved yourself again and again.

I did not want to love you, but you embedded iris inside me. It will harden like pavement. It will sustain past life, past death, until I can no longer remember the counting of days, until my mind is shattered.

I fall in love slowly, over the course of infatuation, denial, attraction, sacrifice; but once my heart solidifies, it blooms into a rust-coiled shell. Time may crack it, or it may soften and shed, but kindness remains. You are forever cursed with my affection, my best intentions, my love, until the story ends.