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Learning to Read

 

 

I do not remember learning to read or write
it seems to just have happened one day.

In faulty recollection of my memory
the learning is
settled somewhere
holding up picture books to a
captive audience of stuffed bears and Barbies,
filling in what I could not read with my own stories
of a princess and fortune,

and work shopping line breaks,
in some peer’s confessional poetry
about growing up and being touched inappropriately,
or the heartbreak of betrayal.
So when Olivia
tucks herself between my mother and I
during her annual Thanksgiving visit,
and reads her own version of a picture book
I think to myself how I secretly wish
she’d never learn how to read the real  words on the pages.

And how I know
one day she’ll be thinking
how she didn’t remember learning to read
but here she is
reading bloodshed,
heartbreak and the many ways
we hurt one another.

while her own stories are
long forgotten.

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My problem is that I don’t have one

I am a 26-year-old white woman living in the Midwest who works two part-time jobs and hopes to one day build a career. The most notably interesting fact about myself is that I have lived five years in Canada, but other than my neighbouring northern country I have no real traveling experience. I had my stint with a depression induced alcoholism that was a long lesson in moderation and limits. I have a degree in Journalism and Literature, an array of random knowledge (due to late night binge Wikipedia adventures), and an appropriate level of anxiety for your average 26-year-old white woman from the Midwest. I am average height and weight and since there is no real quantifying measures to determine beauty or intelligence will reason to say that my beauty is average and intelligence is also average.

I’m fairly boring. I have inherited no disadvantages as a birth right, have had few traumatic experiences, and no real crazy run-ins with fascinating people that took me on some type of epic journey (despite one man who constantly thought I would one day write about him, and expounded upon this whenever, and solemnly at that, he drank.) Sure, I’m sure some things would cause some people to raise their eyebrows or lean in their ears, but they are experiences that only a white Midwesterner would find interesting given the relatively limited experiences many have. And sure, maybe my insights are interesting, but at 26 I tend to find they are still yet a bit underdeveloped.

I could write nonstop about the undying discomfort that occurs when a man cat-calls a woman, or how it feels to cut off friends out of concern that their toxicity is poisoning you, but these insights have been nonstop talked about and these days there is nothing to contribute that hasn’t already been dissected.

I suppose the major crisis in my life is that this is it relatively boring and I suffer from no real ailment. I am not in recovery, I haven’t lived in a third world country, and I don’t particularly know what it is like to grow up in the projects.

By all means I haven’t been born into exception, but I have attempted to create it for myself. I did not go through trials and tribulations to come through the other side exonerated and alleviated of the struggles of such bleak conditions. But, I’ve liked the idea of it quite a bit.

I have been a tease to the seedy side of life, a flirt to self-destruction, and a survivor of self-pity. My crisis extends only to a narcissistic nature of the creative mind that often plagues the younger generations growing up documenting their lives and truly believing that anyone really cares about what they are doing.

The hardest lesson I have ever had to learn in life was that nobody truly cares about your struggles unless their is a personal benefit in it for themselves. Perhaps your family will deeply concern themselves with the inner existential dread you carry, but some aren’t so fortunate and looking outside of the home — well, good luck.

This might seem cynical to some, and even irritate people who truly believe their story is worthy of being heard, but for myself it’s been a lesson that was not only hard to learn, but a blessing to learn.

Your story isn’t’ worth being heard if it serves only to alleviate your own mind. Nobody really cares about the sadness one feels unless they connect to it. Your journal is the proper forum for self-discovery and your art must serve a greater need if it is to be read and to be a meaningful piece that touches anyone.

If one is to really gain any insight into the people around them they need to look further than themselves in a truly honest and impact way. I don’t listen to sad songs when I am happy, much like I wouldn’t read a personal essay on any given topic unless somehow there was some gain for myself. I use other peoples vulnerability and pain as a way to connect to myself.

So even if I write and even if it touches someone, I am not personally effecting them, but only providing a series of words strung together to help them have a conversation with themselves. All art does that

 

 

 

 

In the same sense remember this: ya ain’t shit. If they love your work it’s because they see themselves in it – not because you’re so special a stranger will love you. And I say stranger broadly as most people I interact with fall into that category (this may be a personal hangup of mine.).

 

summer_nights_poetry_poem_summer_poem_cigarette_mercedes
Poetry

Proof of progress in a moment of regression

Last night,
standing on the corner of Broadway and Main,
repeating in my head,
‘Let us go then, you and I’
imagining the evening spread across the sky
like a patient etherized on a table,
I felt a familiar feeling.

The dull sound of
burning-out neon signs
in their death rattle:
a soundtrack.
The low-lit streets
where kids who don’t want to go home,
and men who don’t have a home,
move like threatening shadows: the scene.

You asked me what was on my mind.
I, too consumed with phrases,
and a half-written poem in my head,
couldn’t seem to bring any union
between my mind and my mouth.
Did I ever mention that I like humid summer nights?
Have I mentioned that I reflect upon
the puddles that gather in broken pavement
and catch light reflections?

Have I not mentioned the romantic feeling
that consumes me when I, alone, talk to my
best friends – long dead whom never knew my name?
A familiar feeling of former dark nights.

I worry I’m settling back into the
spines of used books,
a strangers scribbled insight-
my true confidant.

The worry had never consumed me before,
and so I turn to you, and stutter out whatever phrase
is overcoming me.
We turn back,
get into the car,
and drive home to watch a stupid movie.

And somehow it seemed the most profound
movement of art.

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Calm your horses!

 

the past year or so I was really hard on myself for not writing with as much vigor as I had used to. It has come with months of quiet reflection that I had pondered this and come to a sense of peace about why this may be the case. A lot of writers, especially those that feel a moral sense of obligation to document truth, are initially inspired by writers such as Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac who write, often very young, with a present, verb-like method. These writers write in the immediate, often chaotic and messy, but very much in the moment. This style of writing has always excited me, I scurry through the pages seemingly as eager to get answers as they were to jot their experiences down with rushed, bare, and honest writing. Many younger writers are encouraged to write through the story, write what they know, and young writers are wise to heed this advice, but one must know and trust their process – as varied as it may be from the proposed and hailed scholars of writing.
As I attempted this method, and failed, I began to understand my own process, and in that way about myself. For others it might be something else that teaches them this lesson; this learning to unlearn and relearn, but for me it manifested in writing as writing and personally, spiritual and emotional growing and writing are one in the same for me.

It is possible that when I graduated I clung onto the words and advice of past professors out of fear that if I strayed from the academic path the knowledge I had acquired would elude me and I would somehow reverse progress I had made. This is fatalistic thinking and rather destructive as all I had done for months after graduating was stunt the reall learning – the learning about what information I would retain as truth and which I would modify – where the “magic” happens for any creative type.

However, this writing method wasn’t working for me. My attempts at writing had lacked any introspection and reflection – something that I have grown to trust and value in my writing. Whenever I would reread what I had written it sounded forced, with forced and underdeveloped insights. Erroneously, and prematurely, I had become dark and hard on myself. I wanted to change what had made me “me” while altering the method as had worked for others and, yet, maintain something…..I suppose the metaphor for this that I wanted my cake and to eat it also.

I have always felt rushed throughout my life. For the longest time I wasn’t sure why I would feel so rushed and hurried along to get to any other place than where I am. Until I couldn’t write. Until I couldn’t do the one thing that truly brings me release and I had to think about these things. I really had to think about them.
It was myself applying this pressure to some imagined wound, afraid if I let the creativity bleed out I would deplete myself. And in some way, taking my time has allowed me to be in the present instead of trying to rush my present into the future and label it something else. To be able to sit and reflect on where I am in live has allowed me time to observe it, to accept it, and strangely become content in it.
Sure, there are forces out there telling us by some particular age we should have superficial indicators to mark us to society about where we’re at in our age and indicate our success – but it is upon the individual to decide whether or not they will believe these presupposed ideas. It is an individual lesson, one every human feels to some extend regardless of any segregating qualifiers.

somehow my peers and I have become so immune to the joys of delayed gratification. This immediacy just gives birth to a disingenuous and anxious culture. When we are so eager for connection we believe a facade, a snapshot, of who someone is online we rob ourselves of the truth we crave in attempting to get it faster. Our eagerness needs to calm down, but our passion and excitement of life doesn’t not need to. They are mutually exclusive.

I have learned to trust my writing method. I am an individual that needs to reflect, to slow down, that is where my deepest truth comes from – reflection. There are those that portray truth in the moment and those that need to dwell deeper for awhile and despite what we are told we need both narratives for only one narrative would breath life into the same fucking story over and over again

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Things to let go of.

Recently I heard anxiety expressed as the dizziness of freedom.

Weird, right?

Freedom is often sought after and highly regarded as a positive thing, especially in Western societies, so this position baffled me a bit until it was further expounded upon. When one is presented with an endless myriad of options one begins to find themselves moved to feelings of dread to decide on anything out of fear of a road not taken. This dread then turns itself into anxiety and thus anxiety is a symptom of freedom. When peered at through that perspective anxiety is a luxury and a vanity of maladies one can complain about. (Theory, not fact.)

When I heard this I had a hard time letting the thought pass through my mind without first sinking my teeth and claws into it. I turned it over and, true to my tendencies to be prone to dig for morbid insights into the world and self, tried to apply it to my own life.

My poor mother must have banged her head on a wall a million times throughout my life in an attempt to help direct me to feelings of peace after making any major decision in my life. I dwell to the point of being incapable of enjoying blessings over wonderment of what the road not taken might have had to offer. I’d love to say this was a consequence of some intelligence to make myself look burdened by genius, but the truth of the matter is I have been this way since childhood – before even knowing how to tie my own shoes or wipe my own ass. I’ve been predisposed to indecisiveness muddled with impulsive tendencies since I was a wee lass; a strange cocktail of contradicting personality traits that all too often knocks others on their ass wasted.

It wasn’t until last night though I realized how much of a hindrance this particular type of anxiety is for some folks. Some don’t seem plagued with the fear of making the wrong choice, but others, such as myself, feel a deep sense of fear when making any type of commitment – large or small. Fear is really a little bitch, if you ask me, and yet it really does dictate much of societies patterns and behaviours. It is stunning, really, when you consider what an individual might do out of fear of compromising whatever status they hold – most of the time though what this fear does is keep an individual passive.

I don’t think anxiety is real. I don’t think anyone is born anxious. It isn’t like being born prone to periods of melancholy or paranoia, anxiety is a cultivated and harvested mental instability when ones personal moral code and desires are out of line with what they are taught and they attempt to realign those in an appealing manner.

OF COURSE….

I do not think that anyone truly desires absolute freedom otherwise we wouldn’t attach ourselves to anything. Humans crave accountability and approval. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, it’s just how the species has evolved.
My anxieties are of loss. I don’t want to miss out on a single thing in life. I desire to live loud.

This desire keeps me passive because any wrong decision could, ultimately, be the wrong one and screw things up.

Isn’t that just hilarious? Absolutely fucking stupid.

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Lull-a-bye

I hate static. I hate static on the radio. I hate the sound of static. I hate the look of it on televisions. But, the static that I hate the most are the occasional periods of a static life.

I abhor lulls.

I don’t yet quite know if this is a positive or negative trait, if those even exist, or if it just is what is.

I move frequently. When I’m not moving I’m thinking of my next move. I always want some project to be working on. I am absolutely terrified of routine.

Because of this I come with a warning that all too often the people in my life don’t take seriously enough: I’m exhausting. I sometimes worry I am never going to be quite contented with anything for the thirst for some new novelty, new people to be met, new places to see, new foods to eat. It causes me question if I’d ever be a good mother, or just become a resentful one. A very heartbreaking thought that occurs to me from time to time.

The most frightening, sometimes debilitating part about life is that no matter what option you chose you’re eliminating an option for who you could become, for another options, perhaps more appealing. The alternative to this indecision, however, is an actual manifestation of what I claim my biggest fear is – static. At least one can manage their fears. You dwell on them so long they become old companions with quirks you understand. You’re dreams provide you with a hell of a lot more to lose, fail at, be let down by.

But this. Unmoving. Stuck. Routine. Predictable. Even writing this my throat is getting sore from wanting to kind of cry and scream all at once. I imagine crawling out of my own skin into a more able body with more money and beauty. I should have been born a human hermit crab or bird.

My mom says that my inability to feel comfort when making any decision extends as far back to the very first days of conscious decision making.

Essentially this is the real cause of my failed relationships – romantic and friendships. It starts with a wonderful union of similar passions shaking hands and committing to hold one another accountable, but when one slacks, feels content, loses sight, I feel morally betrayed. It is a partial, very partial reason, I don’t invest in many friendships for fear that I’ll become content to stay when I was meant to move.

The only people I truly don’t respect are those that have the potential, it’s obvious…. but are too riddled with fear or laziness, or vices, to do anything about it. Maybe I see myself in them.

I worry about this. I worry that it will always be a source of unhappiness, of feeling like I’m close and, yet, far from where I want to be…that I will never feel I have reached some vague idea of a milestone in life. Other times, I wonder if it is just what fuels me. Some women are gassed up with the idea of a career, or a family, or stability of some sort. I am fueled by an undying passion to feel, read, see, do, and experience absolutely everything.

One lifetime just isn’t enough to be all of the people you want to be.

Maybe the secret is just learning to be grateful. So, I tell myself daily what there is to be grateful for. I read, and that helps. That helps a lot. It allows me to live multiple lives.

Art, travel, and learning to be grateful is the only antidote for this disposition I’ve found to be a modicum of comfort yet.

 

So at night, I tell myself a lullaby. I sing myself songs to get that lull=a-bye. BAD I KNOW.

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Optimism is work for me. I’m okay with that.

I’m a loner and I don’t see why that has to be such a negative thing.

 

Last night I made a (very) brief appearance at the opening night of a new art exhibit. The gallery is relatively new, and therefore a cultural hot spot. Curious, and with a lack of anything else to really do, I decided to venture on out to it.

The theme of the exhibit was local Instagram photography. Given the size of this mid-west city the art community is rather small in comparison to more metropolitan areas, which provides it’s own particular set of pros and cons. Given that the majority of people at the event were faces and names I had come to at least recognize vaguely, much of the crowd I was familiar with. Likewise, a lot of the artists Instagrams I follow, so the photography was something I had seen through my iPhone a few times. I am not diminishing this. It was a nice celebration of local pride and creating a sense of community. I had arrived alone. Albeit, I was in a peculiar mood, and found myself magnetically pulled to the walls of the gallery and staying away from the center crowd. I figured that a five min. rush through would have been a waste of my time, so I sat at a comfortable chair and observed – a skill that I have effectively perfected throughout the years – how to magically disappear and yet remain mindfully engaged with those around you. I couldn’t help but shake a feeling that I was out of place, however. I felt like the gangly kid from freshman year again. All the other kids just get “it,” how to keep their hair cool, how to effortlessly mingle in crowds, how to maintain stimulating small talk without visible nerves.

The inner monologue turned for the worse. I suddenly disliked the people around me, found them fake and ego-stroking for their own validation.. These are people I genuinely like and if I don’t people that I notice around town and genuinely want to get to know. I got upset with my boyfriend for not coming with me. And then a thought occurred to me that this was the effect of wrongful thinking. It was fear masquerading as anger. I felt threatened, and I can admit that.

So I wandered more and found that in the back corner of the gallery was an interactive set for visitors to create their own instagram photoshoot. If you stood away from the corner it looked like a hodgepodge mess of objects and, frankly, looked messy. However, if one were to pull out their phone and focus in on a few objects it would create this very eclectic and bohemian square photo – slap on a filter and ba-da-bing! A beautiful caricature of life. Just like real life.

Thinking more tonight about how I felt being a loner at this event…. I realized that I didn’t actually mind – I just felt like I should. Why was I the type to be uncomfortable networking at galleries? Why was I the type to prefer the conversation I was having with myself more than with others? Because – because it’s how I am hardwired – just like how many of those people would be incredibly uncomfortable if we were to sit and smoke cigarettes and have a conversation one-on-one (which is where I shine more.)

This all stirred up a lot of complex feelings, but feelings that I wasn’t unaccustomed to. They were vaguely familiar – they were how I had once felt. So tonight while brain-storming more about this I pulled out a journal I had found when rummaging through my mothers attic over the summer. The dates start in 2005, a decade ago, when I was 15. I hadn’t moved to Canada yet. I hadn’t been kissed yet. The very, very first page was a list of things about me; my age, favorite color, favorite animal, hobbies….general ‘facts’ to show who I was at 15 written in a colorful purple pen. However this is all scribbled out with aggressive black ink and scribbled in distinctly different, yet still my handwriting “No one cares about this!”

I don’t have to explain much more other than to say the theme of the journal from 2005- 2007 closely follows that disposition. That’s just one journal. Many more, through later years, get darker and harder on myself.

At the gallery – the same dialogue was happening. “Why can’t I just fucking blend in?” “Why are you so awkward talking to people.” “They think you’re boring that’s why they’re walking away.”

After reading that journal entry I immediately wrote a journal entry dated ten years later apologizing to my former self for being mean to myself, for not crediting myself. To be honest, ten years later reading those entries were rather profound. They were deep, reflective thoughts for anyone, let alone a fifteen-year-old, but they always ended with, “Well, whatever, this is all stupid anyway and my opinion doesn’t matter.”

Since I was younger I’ve always had this idea of how I “should” be and getting mad at myself for not being that other than accepting the way I am and not viewing it as a negative thing.

I’m a loner, and you know what? I don’t mind it. I have found myself subconsciously choosing that lifestyle while verbally saying I don’t want it, but it is who I am. I enjoy my solitude. Of course, it gets lonely, but I also felt the loneliness of those around me at this event – it’s why their smiles where wider than mine, why their laughs were more audible. They were like a living version of the Instagram station – from my far away view I could see how they shuffle their feet, clench their drinks, twirl their hair, but when right in front of you saying the right thing, smiling, and they’re filtered by your own desire to make a good impression. They find comfort in people. That’s beautiful. I find comfort in people, also, but in a different way. I find it by watching them, internalizing their words, contemplating the emotions of strangers. And that is beautiful, too.

There’s a beauty in being a loner. I find myself pulled to more extroverted people, and I enjoy that they can provide a perspective that I don’t possess. However, whereas in the past I would think that’s how I should be I have tuned into how others react to my perspective, and generally it’s with the same interest that I meet theirs. I just didn’t realize it then, at fifteen, because I was too busy thinking I should be different.

The media, our parents, siblings, friends, towns, whatever can make us feel like we should be different than we are. They aren’t the  real enemy, though, the only real enemy would be yourself if you decide to believe it. Resilience and trust yourself. I’m working on it. Hell, it’s easy to write, but for a few days I’ll feel self-conscious for writing this even though the tracker will say ten people (if I am luckybut) of the 400 on my Facebook friends list will read this – roughly four percent if that’s how math works. But hell I did it anyway.

Love.

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The Truth

The truth is,

I’m not sure if I really do want to know the truth
or just experience the feeling of purpose that accompanies
searching for it.

I do crave the mystery,
but upon arriving to a conclusion
am almost always disappointed
in something
or someone.

Sometimes the disappointment is in myself
for seeking and finding
what I should have been
careful of.

Sometimes the facts
mean nothing,
and nothing changes.

But,
It’s realizing
there was something that led you
searching
That really breaks the heart.

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Kitchen Floors

I have been thinking of the ideal writing place since I took a creative nonfiction writing class my last semester of college (which was not that long ago.) My professor urged us to find a place in which we felt safe to focus and write and to this day I’ve been trying to listen to still channel her voice and heed her advice to find a place that suits me. I’ve tried writing in bed, but my back aches and there isn’t much to look at. I tried a desk – far too stuffy and corporate feeling. I tried writing on the couch – the television is too tempting to my easily distracted mind.

And then it hit me. Wherever I have truly written anything I don’t mind (when I am home – as I adore writing in places that are foreign to me) I’ve been in my kitchen. I credit this realization to the thought of striving for a transient lifestyle which have been haunting my waking hours lately.

As I am writing this now I’m sitting on the floor of my kitchen, eating noodles directly out of the pan, chain smoking, and listening to music far too loud. To the casual observer this probably looks akin to squatting and a terrible attempt at focusing. Probably even to my own mothers horror she’d urge me to eat from a dish, to relax a bit more in a comfortable chair and let the words pour out of me. Yet, I’ve always known I was a non-conventional person and thus the writing process for me needs to resemble that. No, it doesn’t NEED to, but I prefer it to. I can focus in the kitchen. Every other room has too many distractions. Maybe that is because I don’t know what any appliance in the kitchen really does and thus there is little to be distracted with. Maybe because it’s a room people always come and go – they need to for basic survival and writing feels very similar to me. After a failed attempt at building a fire (I is no fire builder) in which I had hoped I would be able to sit aside and ruminate on possible things I wanted to write about, I, defeated and sad I couldn’t make fire (a damn basic element for chirsts-sake) I decided to take cue from one of my favorite writers and channel the acceptance of being lost.

There is a small (large) part of me that feels if I were to suddenly sell all that I own, save a few books, and disappear that maybe magically my life would be transformed and feel purposeful. Perhaps, if I leave all that I have ever known and get totally, totally lost I might find my true self in the flux of transitions. Yet, upon thinking about this a bit longer I realized I already am totally, totally lost. The only thing is that it’s not glamorous. I’m not Jack Kerouac on the road jotting down all of the debauchery I’ve found myself in. I’m not Cheryl Strayed hiking the PTC attempting to literally walk the line to salvation. I’m Logan and I go to the same job day in and day out, I barely make enough to live, I have a few friends, and I have a cat and boyfriend I hang out with around bed time – and I go to the same bar when I do go out.

And maybe I am lucky for this. Because for many of us it resembles this when we’re lost or in transition or dealing with the nagging feeling that we realize we want something a bit…..more. The feeling that things are a bit mundane, intensely unsatisfying at times, joyously comfortable other times, and a slow slip into accepting a routine. No, I probably won’t go out and sell everything I own and flee this town. It likely will be a few years before I travel with the magnitude I hope to (oh, but I assure you that WILL happen.) I probably am not going to do half of the things my imagination conjures up, but that humbles me and makes me a bit more of the common person struggling to accept that life is perhaps not always the way we think it’s going to be when we are younger with rose-coloured lenses resting comfortably upon our plump baby faces.

So when I sit home alone on my kitchen floor eating out of a pan and chain smoking, when I take my hour long break from work to drive out in the country, when I decide to get outside of my comfort zone and visit a new place alone it feels like a small and rebellious victory. I’m trying to learn the basic things like washing my dishes and underwear with a respectable frequency, but I’m also trying to learn to take advantage of this time of being lost to find myself. Find myself sitting on the floor of the kitchen. Find myself while stopping to let fawns cross the dirt roads. Find myself by campfires. Find myself in the pages of literature. Find myself in music. Find myself in smiles and conversations of strangers. Find myself somewhere very foreign in my own town.

I don’t necessarily mind being lost, because well frankly this is a shit ton of fun. However, any potential employer reading this, hire me. I also want money and to work for you. All of you. Any of you. I want a real goal plz k thanx.

What I’m trying to say is: Get your shit together, but allow yourself a space to sit on the hard floor, letting your ass get numb, drinking and eating right from the damn containers they come in, curse sometimes, and give yourself a place you can just breathe, be you, and fuck if anyone thinks there’s a better way to go about it. I’ll probably write in my kitchen until I die. Hemingway would probably scoff at this, but then again he did shoot his brains out…..