Every year you greet me
with that same coldness.
Those biting little gusts of air
that give me chills and drive me to drink excessive cups of hot cocoa.
Blood red leaves blanket branches that will soon be stripped to
skeletal, empty versions of their former selves.
Spring will bring them regeneration and revival, but until then,
they will be gray and bleak and without life.
Maybe some of them will be optimistic, and look forward to a chance of new beginnings and new life.
But some of them will think only of the snow to come,
wondering if they can survive feeling any colder.
Every year you come around,
and I crave cuddling with my cat, going on walks, and everything Pumpkin.
But these pass, and I’m left with an inescapable sense of dread.
I’m haunted with wondering if this fall will be different from the last two.
If my mind and my body will make it out unscathed,
or if I’ll stop associating the change of the leaves or the cold air or scarves and coats and hot cocoa with that handful of pills, and everything that led up to it.
I wonder if I’ll stop blaming myself,
and if I’ll start loving myself.
I wonder if I’ll ever be excited for you to greet me, again.
One, two, three leaps, and I dive.
I immediately panic, because it’s colder than I thought, so
I force myself to stay under until I run out of breath.
I come back up,
Take in a deep breath of the smoke-filled air, and dive again.
The rapid kicking of my legs propels me forward.
Up. Another breath, and under.
I close my eyes and repeat this motion
Again and again.
Without my sight, I focus on the warmth of coming up,
The surge of cold that sits close to the lake floor as I go down,
and the bubbles that race from my mouth to the surface on the return.
After a few minutes,
I’m convinced that there’s a shark swimming toward me
And I won’t be able to defend myself because my eyes are closed.
I wouldn’t even see it coming.
I push this thought away and keep on swimming
The light on my closed eyelids is orange on my inhale
and black as I descend again.
It keeps returning, this image of a shark,
Gaping mouth with pointed, blood-stained teeth
Swimming toward me with dead black pearly eyes and
The aggressive swish of its tail as it hunts me.
And I have to look.
Of course, nothing is there.
Just the sandy floor and my arms in front of me.
I felt disappointed in myself for not trusting the truth that I know (that there are obviously no sharks in the lake)
Just because I’d closed my eyes for a few minutes.
I return to the surface and look at the shore,
Which is small because I’ve swam out so far,
And blurry because I left my glasses on the beach.
I think of the end of the end of The Awakening, when
Edna swims too far out into the ocean.
She has a moment of panic when she realizes
She doesn’t have the strength to make it back,
So she surrenders herself to the sea
And keeps swimming away from the shore.
I’ve always seen it as a moment of liberation and strength.
It isn’t sad, because she’s overcome by this inebriating release,
Flooded by the scents and sounds of her childhood
Rather than the oppressing plague of regret and failure.
I stopped swimming because I was scared
Of a shark that couldn’t possibly exist.
To give you a general idea of how the last few days have been going for me, yesterday somebody honked their horn at me because the light turned green, and I started to cry.
Today, my car wouldn’t start, and so I got it jumped and eventually had to borrow my friend’s car when she got to work so that I could go to a doctor’s appointment and class. I just kept randomly crying all morning—I couldn’t get it together. After class, I had an hour to spare before she’d be off, and it was hot outside, so I decided to go to the river and put my feet in the water until then.
As I walked to the crosswalk, two little redheaded girls were walking toward me and getting ready to cross. The younger one (whose hair was dyed-I know these things. I can smell a fake redhead from a mile away) was putting on sunscreen and I looked at it and felt my fragile white skin start to mourn its youth. The older girl looked at me and said “we’re going to the river!” I made a comment about how smart they were to bring sunscreen because I’d forgotten mine. They offered me theirs, and I gained two new best friends for the next hour.
During that time, I really went back and forth between feeling like I was 12 and feeling like a super creep for playing in the water with two young girls who I didn’t know. I’d also like to say that I’m pretty sure I saved a few lives since parents are idiots and think that their tiny children are invincible fish. I didn’t have a swimsuit, either, and so I just wore my dress, which probably didn’t help relieve my creep status.
There are these small rapids in the river that kids slide down all the time. I watch them, and I think “that looks fun!” but I never do it, because knowing my luck, I’d hit a rock and my back would rip in half. So instead, I played games with Ally (11) and Becca (13)—creeped out yet? Don’t be, I only asked them their names, ages, schools, and address.
We had contests to see who could pick up the biggest rock and the most sand and who could find a stick with their foot first and who could hold their breath the longest. I felt like a little kid, and it made me so happy.
So anyway, these rapids—Ally and Becca kept sliding down them, and they’d disappear for a few seconds and come back up spitting out river water (but smiling) while they tried to swim out of the current and back to the quiet, still water where I stood like a giant baby in imaginary floaties. At one point, Ally swam after Becca to go down them again, and then very suddenly turned back toward me and yelled pointedly “Come on! I trust in you!” And so I went down those tiny rapids three times, and I hit my ass a few times and it was worth it. I even split my back in half, and it didn’t matter because I felt like I could do anything (maybe that didn’t happen, but I really did feel like I could do anything).
Because my car wouldn’t start and it was hot and I was all cried out and had an awful day and was in a sorry mood, I walked to the river and ran into versions of myself at 11 and 13 and had the time of my life. I walked back to work once my friend got off so we could jump my car, which still sat in the same place next to hers. I got in the front seat, and just for the hell of it, I tried to start it. And the engine turned over and it was fine. Of course.
A few years ago, my brain was really broken, and so was my heart and my body. I didn’t know how to get it back, and it wasn’t easy to try. I felt empty and I wanted to be dead.
I used to go to Tahoe and jump in the water with all of my clothes on. And for just a few seconds I felt so cold that I was sure my lungs were going to explode and I’d die right there, alone in the lake. But that moment of panic was followed by a moment of relief that I was still capable of feeling something. It was exhilarating and it made me feel alive, if only for that moment. It forced me to be in my own body in a time that I didn’t want to be in it, anymore.
Today was another moment like that. Sometimes (albeit rarely), I still feel so broken, like I’m right back where I used to be. You know how in 50 First Dates, Drew Barrymore’s character can’t remember people or events that happen after her head injury? She just keeps reliving the same day. Sometimes I feel that way, except I remember the people I meet and events I experience but can’t connect to them, or even care about them. A lot of people who’ve come into my life after all of this have been hurt by me. They’ve tried to draw me close and I’ve pushed them away and haven’t though twice about it. I’m scared that I’ll always do that. And on days like today I’m so convinced that I always will.
But then I jump into the water in my clothes and the rush of cold and the smell of fish and whatever else the Truckee smells like hits me. She didn’t say “I believe in you,” she said “I trust in you,” and I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Libby, stop analyzing four words that an 11 year-old said. No, because it was important and it resuscitated me.
I’m just so happy that I crossed paths with them, and put my whole body into the water instead of just my feet. And I’m also glad that they were redheads, so people probably thought they were my little sisters and didn’t call the cops on me.
I wanted to share this. I don’t even care if anybody reads it, I know it’s long. I’m just really glad my car wouldn’t start today.
I just went through my entire blog.I kept reading things and thinking “Oh, Libby.” I want to go through and delete them or edit them or add in little notes in the margins that say things like “dramatic” or “really?” or “get over it.” Really, some of it is so dark and angsty, but I guess that I can’t discredit or change how I felt or how I chose to express what I was experiencing. Regardless, I just can’t help cringing at some of it. It seems as though (and sometimes sounds as though) that was years and years ago. Ah, well. It is what it is. Hopefully my 24 followers (probably 2 of whom actually read anything I post) don’t judge me too harshly. It’s a real concern of mine.
“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”—"Sonny’s Blues"-James Baldwin
I put my orange sweater over my bare legs,
because I didn’t want you to see where thin purple veins
like small snakes scatter themselves on my white thighs.
Where tiny craters or silvery lines like stretched out lightning bolts
illuminate my insecurities. Suck in, I think. I think, suck in.
I feel prettier when I hide how I feel, I feel you, feel I’m prettier
with jeans or an orange sweater or baggy shirt or a blanket or the dark.
Some mornings I wake up and I think I’ll rule the world,
even though the doctor told me that I still have eight to go
until I’m in the normal range.
Sometimes I stare at myself in the mirror and I think
just suck in, I think.
But nothing changes and so I curse the squishy soft loud curves that crash on me like waves and sometimes I’m sure I might drown in my lack of cheekbones and a six pack.
Always, though, I cover the snakes, because when I let them breathe,
in that moment of feeling free and beautiful,
I can’t stop looking at them,
waiting for them to bite.
But some nights I get into bed and I think that I could jump right back out
if i put on lipstick, i’ll be beautiful.
will you look at me then?
big red lips like plums dripping wet
and eyes thick with black glup,
the sound a fish makes.
drink water until i’m full,
slim down ‘til people stare.
tell me that i look good
tell me that i’m pretty.
dye my hair
nails painted black (it adds to the mystery)
do you like me mysterious?
try and figure me out,
get a taste of lips that smack together
like slapping a bug on the wall.
run my hand under my chin
and then my other chin.
my legs too white, too big, too big.
my stomach soft, jutting over
the pinching tightness of my pants.
the mirror scrutinizes every fold, frown,
a magnifying glass that never breaks.
i pinch the skin and think of thinner days,
ice cream, beer, bread and wings
these are a few of my favorite things.
i gobble them up,
the sound a turkey makes,
do you still think i’m pretty?
with my pink lips, clean nails,
big hips like a real Barbie.
hair’s a mess, crumbs on my face,
soft stomach, soft butt, soft legs, soft chin,
to be thin is to be hard.
People have been saying “one day at a time”
for a long time,
We treat our feelings
as if we’re the only ones who have ever felt them.
As if people haven’t been crying out for help
For God get me out of this mess before I take myself out of it,
People write books about this, right?
They write poetry,
or pound out their feelings once a week with their therapists
As if their calculated and robotic responses and nods and furrowed brows
Will ever create permanence and stability or make things okay.
As if “one day at a time” is ever enough to get us through the worst.
And we cut off our hair and we cry and say we’re just having a bad day,
So nobody really thinks twice.
Connection. What the hell is that?
Connect to what?
My past future present past past past—
We ignore each other, do we choose that?
Everybody pretends that everybody else is okay.
We even pretend that we’re okay,
And that’s what makes it unbearable when we realize we aren’t.
Stop playing the part and just let yourself go.
Those of us who question and feel and hurt and cry and I can’t do it anymore, are you listening? HEY! YOU! LOOK AT ME.
(Why doesn’t anybody see me?)
We’re the ones who are living, and who will survive.
“One day at a time” isn’t enough,
Mindfulness isn’t enough.
Love isn’t enough.
But we are. This is.
Existing and hating and fighting and crying and loving and hurting and lying and laughing.
We need all of it to survive.
The good, the bad and the ugly,
Buckle up, buttercup. We’re in for a rough ride
and other clichés like those.
And even when we don’t think we can make it,
we get through another day, we wake up.
Hey, you woke up this morning!
For right now, that’s enough. Because it has to be, right?
Sure, it gets better. Whatever. What the hell does that matter now?
We drive in our cars and speed
and want to let go of the wheel and go flying off the highway
so that it looks like an accident.
So we won’t hurt as much.
Like hurting and feeling are bad things.
Like they aren’t reminders that we’re alive and reacting.
We don’t realize that there are other people driving
on the same stretch of road as us thinking the same damn thing.
Remember when I told you
I wanted to put stones in my pocket
and walk into the river like Virginia Woolf?
I drank a bottle of rum
and stood at the river’s edge for what seemed like an eternity that night,
and then I fell asleep on the rocks like a homeless man.
I felt dirty and stupid and weak and used and hopeless and “one day at a time”
didn’t mean a damn thing.
When I woke up the pain wasn’t gone and I wish I’d died.
I felt bad for hurting myself.
For the fresh marks on my wrist
and the vomit on my shirt from where I threw up by the water
and for the memories that I couldn’t let go of
and for not being better already,
because how long does it take?
Some of us are broken, some of us are more broken than others.
You think you’re beyond repair?
You think nobody gets it?
You think there aren’t other people who cry until they’re heaving,
Trying to breathe but not being able to stop
Screaming at the air?
Such a perfect audience, it’s so quiet, so unoffended and unassuming.
Do you think that other people don’t feel their hearts breaking?
They feel the pieces embedding in their sensitive flesh
Like a razor digging into their skin.
Some of us are ugly and mean and pretending and that we don’t care.
But you’re fucking beautiful,
Because you’re here and you’re hurting
And you know it.
You’re perfect for knowing it.
But you’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.
You’re going to be okay.
You are going to be okay.
You. Are. Going. To. Be. Okay. Okay.
“She would only point out the salvation that was latent in his own soul, and in the soul of every man. Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”—― E.M. Forster, Howards End
Some thoughts (more than thoughts) while driving across the Nevada desert.
What strange creatures we are; ignoring that small, wise piece of us that whispers the right direction to move: up up and away. The quiet fragment of relief that might be our saving inspiration if only we let down the prideful walls which stand guard against it, armed and ready, with a clear shot to the head.
Smother this insistence for change, this offer for help, because we fear being wrong, because we fear the process that will surely be filled with such tears and remorse that we will crumble and drown in the salty water. We accept this as truth; we accept remaining here, in this grave, as survivable. Thinking that if we turn on our sides instead of being on our backs that we can survive underground, gasping for the small pockets of air that still linger. We accept the brief, teasing window of light that flashes just out of reach as being enough. We convince ourselves to shift the realities of our emotional spiritual physical psychological everything else states to make that flash enough for our survival and happiness and purpose. Surely that flash will become more frequent, surely it will touch us with its warmth, envelop us in its knowing and ready arms.
What creatures we are, ignoring the voice that does not tease, but promises. Promises that with a leap of trust and faith (not in some mystical god of wisdom or in the unknown) but in ourselves, that we can be fulfilled instead of vacant. A promise that with this leap, the light will never again leave our eyes, arms will never release us, but will enable us to transcend the damp and drab darkness that surrounds us.
Why do we choose (because it is a choice) to justify such pain and loneliness when there lies a real and perfect opportunity for unimaginable change that (if we let it, which we so often don’t) will hold us and tell us that “it’s okay?” Will repeat that until we have released our last nostalgic and regretful sob, until we’ve finally caressed the self-destructive army of emotions within, until it sighs a tired breath and surrenders.
All we have to do is listen, to move. Because the greatest danger exists in staying still and waiting for that voice to diminish, to lift onto some higher plane so that we can ignore its call.
We have to move, we have to say “stop” to the powerful dark pieces of us which multiply quietly and incessantly. Until we say stop, enough, no more; until we scream that command, we remain subject to thick and uncompromising desolation in which peace cannot possibly reside.
So, choose-no, demand your freedom from sadness and monotonous struggle. Because you know it cannot possibly end unless you break it now, in this moment of clarity. Choose that or fall back into obscurity and suffocation. You’re the only one strong enough to throw off the weight of disillusioned happiness and false justifications. Lift the weight so that you can breathe, so that you can stand on that higher plane on which everything will finally be clear and okay. Where things will be peaceful.
What we are, feeling these impulses, and stopping them in their tracks (when there is so much potential for life peace love okay dreams knowledge help meaning enlightenment choice experience light clarity never going back to that place).
“The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones, The exquisite realization of health; O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul, O I say now these are the soul!”—Walt Whitman-Leaves of Grass
Disclaimer: I've been up since 12:30 and I'm sick and sleep deprived and have to work in an hour.
Someday, this is all going to make for an incredibly hilarious, heart wrenching, embarrassing, “I don’t believe it” sort of play or book. Being able to laugh at myself is a blessing. I lost it for a few months, or maybe several. All I can hope for is somebody else, minutes or miles or oceans away, who is as awkward and accident-prone as I am. Somebody to share my life with, somebody who will just shut up for a few minutes and let me stutter out stories, and then know whether to laugh or cry or tickle me or make me cookies or just not say a word. In any of those cases, I hope they make me cookies. Every time I tell a story, I want a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for me as a “congratulations! you did it!” I’m not high-maintenance, I just know what I want. I want somebody who will pull me onto a white mustang as it gallops across a beach at dawn. I want the mustang to have a bottle of wine in its mouth, and I want it to throw its head back so the bottle lands in my hand, and then I want to throw that bottle away in the nearest trash can because wine is gross. Then I want the mustang to throw me a bottle of apple juice, instead. I want somebody who will swim in the ocean with me and whisper “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.” Maybe not. Noah says that to Allie and they wind up dead in the end. On a side note, my plans for a cat farm are coming together quite nicely.