Talking to Strangers

When you’re a kid, they tell you not to talk to strangers.

It seems like these days I do exactly the opposite of that. I talk to strangers. I go out, drive long distances by myself at night, and then dance with strangers.

Recently I went on a blues event on a cruise ship and I roomed with a stranger. We slept in the same room having only just met that day.

I took an acro-yoga class from a stranger. I then joined a group led by this same stranger to go wander around a strange country for the first time. On that excursion, I had lunch sitting beside that stranger. I ate the organs of a strange animal (I don’t speak Spanish, the natives tried to warn me, it smelled good, it was good, I ate it) on a taco.

I went to a tequila shop and a bar, and I drank a good quantity of liquor with that same stranger. When we kept accidentally uttering the same phrases as each other or finishing the other’s sentences; I stopped speaking my thoughts out loud because it was eerie.

That stranger asked me to dance that night (if you’re not familiar, I do Blues dancing, it wasn’t some seedy cruise ship club grind) and then spent a good amount of time sitting and talking with me in a dimly lit corner. We danced again.

And again.

And the last song.

It was the last night of the cruise and we took a “survivors photo” of everyone who made it to the end of late night dancing at nearly 5 am. The stranger tucked me in next to him and smiled.

I didn’t want the night to end.

Neither did he.

We had to be out of our rooms in 3 hours for checkout.

The stranger asked if I’d be up for roaming the ship instead of sleeping.

The stranger’s hair was purple, blue, teal, just a touch pink, and tied away from his face in a long unicorn tail down his back. His coat was gold brocade. His smile was soft and warm and I wanted to wrap myself in it. He didn’t feel so strange.

I said yes.

He followed me to my room so I could get a jacket. My dress was short, and thin, black linen with delicate puffed sleeves in lace.

I tucked my hands into the pockets of my hoodie and followed him back up the winding stairs. We glided along the empty, silent hallways of the ship together. For once there was no ambient noise. No frat boys falling off of deck chairs. No one smoking. No music.

We found our way into the balcony of the theater. There was large high-backed, circular booths overlooking a stage hung in gaudy glittering gold curtains that blazed appallingly in full light, but in the quiet hours, under the dimmed chandeliers, merely twinkled softly. We slipped into a center booth and sat side by side.

He tucked me under an arm and I leaned in, comfortable, tired, eyes still aglow. The day had been so full and lovely. I peeked at his face and our eyes met. There was no pressure in his gaze. Everything was soft, neutral.

I knew from our conversation at that dance that we had a good amount in common. I also knew this was the last night of a cruise in an event that drew people from all over the country and while he lives in the same state I do, he’s pretty far away. If he was looking for something in me, logic dictates that it probably wasn’t the start of something serious.

When I looked in his face, I saw no expectation but I also knew he was going to kiss me at some point. I looked away quickly and said something vague. I felt like the situation should scare me. I felt like I should distance myself. I felt like I should feel something other than the utter calm and peace I felt sitting so close to him.

He’s a stranger. He was a stranger.

I have a good amount of guilt in me. It follows me. It dictates a lot of what I do. For some reason, I felt like I should feel guilty or ashamed. I felt like I should feel that I was doing something wrong.

For the life of me, though, I couldn’t muster the guilt.

He read my palm.

This may seem like nothing to some people. Or hokey. Or occult. To me, it felt like home.

My childhood best friend used to read my palm. The library of our Junior High had a selection of nonfiction on fortune telling. We read palms and tarot. She bought me my first set of tarot cards and used to swear “Goddess!” instead of “God!”

As readings go, the one that took place in the theatre wasn’t anything to write home about, but when he finished with the love line and the markings of old loves that he said on my palm were thin and “fading away” (and indeed they are), I realized I wanted him to kiss me, just like I’d wanted him to ask me to dance,  and that if he didn’t do it soon, I was going to kiss him.

I just wanted a kiss. It didn’t have to mean anything.

I liked him, and I wanted to kiss him.

There’s this dumb quote I had on a piece of “room decor” in college which I secretly hold a firm belief in- the soul can be seen through the eyes and felt with a kiss.

I wanted to sip ever so slightly from his soul.

If we’re being honest, at this point in the night, I knew I wanted to know more about him. He’s too fascinating and too similar to me not to draw me in. The more we talked the less “strange” he became to me.

He did kiss me.

He leaned in slowly. That same soft, smile on his face. No expectation. No force. His movements were very clearly defined and so, so very slow. He gave me every opportunity to move away, give him my cheek for the friendly Europeanesque greeting that had become so commonplace on the ship among the dancers that weekend, or otherwise decline the advance.

I leaned in ever so slightly and my eyes drifted shut just as his lips touched mine for perhaps (not exaggerating) the softest, lightest kiss I’ve ever had. It was just a soft, drawn out, lingering brush of lips. Think of how you’d kiss something incredibly valuable but made of spun sugar.

I caught my breath and he backed up just enough to give me space to initiate the next kiss. When I leaned in, his hand came up and tangled in my hair.

We kissed for a while and traced each other’s hands. He traced the line of my cheek with his nose and traded me Eskimo kisses. It was peculiar and perfect.

The rest of the night (wee hours of the morning as it were) is a blur of talking, kissing, joking, lips brushing throats, laughing, kissing, his nails trailing over my calves, watching the light play through the ocean of colors in his hair, and kiss after kiss after kiss.

We were interrupted when the staff started walking in through the doors downstairs on their way to other parts of the ship. Music came back on through the speakers. We ducked lower in our booth and listened to the ship coming back to life.

We eventually decided we should leave the theater. It wasn’t that we weren’t supposed to be there, but it also wasn’t that we were allowed to be there. “American Pie” came on over the speakers and he offered me a hand to dance. We did until another staff member burst through a door and we guiltily broke apart giggling and ran for the doors.

I’m almost certain we weren’t supposed to be in the room overnight because only one of about 10 doors was unlocked. We’d been sealed in and hadn’t noticed.

The magic was over. If ever I understood how Cinderella felt at midnight it was that night. We walked apart from each other and I felt the distance. There had been enough talking and laughing through the night that I didn’t want it to be all there was.

I began steeling myself for it being a “cruise fling”.

He kissed me quite passionately in the elevator but stopped when the doors opened.

He said “see you at breakfast” and I agreed but only half believed it.

Oddly (and nerve-wrackingly) enough, I was wrong.

When the ship officially came into port and the wifi came back on, I was seated across from the man we’re now going to refer to as The Unicorn because (spoilers) he is very much not a stranger to me any longer. Our shoes were tucked under our seats and we each had a foot resting on the other’s thigh.

He watched me sleepily push scrambled eggs around my plate and winked or blew me a kiss each time I met his eyes.

He eventually made a friend of his switch him places so he could sit with an arm around me in the booth.

Six of us napped in the booth, waiting to disembark. There are a couple photos of me sleeping tucked under his arm, head cradled on his chest.

He added me on Facebook.

His last name is my first name.

When we disembarked, I wanted to cry.

We didn’t find a moment alone for a goodbye kiss between the booth and customs and when we tried to kiss each other on the cheek at the same moment at breakfast resulted in an accidental and public peck on the lips, I didn’t think he’d kiss me goodbye in the group outside the port. In front of people.

He did.

Hugged me, then pulled my face close and kissed me soundly.

Smiled and said we should keep in touch.

Yesterday, I bought the plane ticket for my second trip out to see him. [The first trip is a fairy tale for another time]

We have 2-hour conversations about food and 6-8 hour conversations about everything into the wee hours of the morning. He still reads my mind, and I still accidentally finish his sentences.

It’s still a bit early to say, as it could still all go to Hell in a handbasket, but at this point, it’s looking like talking to strangers is something I could stand to do more often.

Occasionally you might find a Unicorn.

 

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Return to Port

I am not happy with my life.

I haven’t touched this blog in ages. It seemed wrong to put the negativity and utter loneliness that’s been weighing me down these past months into these pages and out into the world. I may touch on it later, and catch any hangers on up to speed, but safe to say I have been living a life of quiet, alarming, desperation and it has been stamping out each breath of creativity that has managed to rise to the surface.

But despite exactly how bad THINGS got, somehow I didn’t realize that I, all-caps-I, I wasn’t happy until this morning, driving home from a weekend cruise and thinking about fast food.

I didn’t sleep much on the cruise. Maybe a few hours a night Thursday through Sunday. It was something like a dance exchange for Blues, so with activities in the day and dancing at night there just wasn’t time.

Last night after the dancing stopped and everyone started going back to their cabins to pack and cram in a few hours of shuteye, I was aglow with the bliss of a perfect evening and excellent dances. I didn’t want the night to end, so when a new friend asked if I wanted to just stay up the 2-3 hours until we needed to start vacating our rooms I dragged a hoodie on over my dress and together we wandered the empty corridors of the ship.

Finally, we tucked ourselves away in a balcony booth in the empty theatre. In the warm silence, dimmed chandeliers made the heavy gold curtain on the stage twinkle softly and he read my palm.

As readings go it was vague but entertaining, and his hand on mine was warm and heavy and pleasant in the wee hours of the morning. It wasn’t the palmistry that pierced me, but the plain questions he asked of me as we continued talking.

We’d spent a good deal of the day together in a group, wandering the streets of Ensenada. I’d never been out of the country and the day couldn’t have been better. He led us away from the tourist traps and into a restaurant where weathered working men stood at the counter for a quick comida on their midday break. He brought us into a shop where the owners recognized him from years past and poured us samples of a more fantastic variety of tequila than you could imagine. We sat in a closet of a dive bar, discussed and sampled sweet bread from vendors in the street and wandered in to giggle at “SEX BOUTIQUE” like the adults we are. We had a good amount of information on each other but other than a few minutes alone at breakfast the morning before, and a chain of exquisitely slow and close and intricate dances at the end of the night, we hadn’t spent much time one on one.

He asked “If work goes wherever you go, why don’t you travel?”

I couldn’t answer. It hadn’t occurred to me to just up and do something like that. I’ll work from a friend’s house so I can hang out with them, but hadn’t thought to go to any of the places I want to visit.

He asked what my goals are for my dancing and again, I had to give serious thought.

Driving home once we got into port I turned off the radio and drove home rolling over the trip. It was light and happy. I felt good, more pondering than dwelling.

I hadn’t slept and my vision was getting a bit fuzzy as I drove. I was also hungry, since I’d only picked at my breakfast between a growing hangover and preferring to doze in a booth with about six other dancers in something of a “cuddle puddle”.

Traffic was bad and I started considering the onramps coming up to grab something to eat. After 3-4 days of just going, grabbing and eating quality food, perfectly ripe fruit, and piping hot coffee, nothing sounded good. All my go-tos also happen to be “mexican food” chains and after the handmade tortillas, rich organ meat, sweet molé, and the cold, sugary cola of Ensenada, there was no way a “classic Del Taco” was going to pass my lips. I passed exit after exit and didn’t pull off. I thought of getting sushi (always my favorite) and couldn’t bring myself to.

The magic had rubbed off of the edges. The trip had been everything I’d hoped for and more. I was so caught up in what I was doing and seeing and tasting and feeling that I only took about 60 photos all told.

I think it was in trying to console myself or find something to look forward to that I had the realization: I am not happy with my life.

Again, though it wasn’t a negative thought, despite the fact that it came from my day to day being so hollow that I couldn’t find something to keep me going. It was freeing in a way.

I keep turning the theatre over in my head: my legs in the lap of a man I’d really only just started getting to know, his hand on my knee, my head on his shoulder under the low shimmer of the gold curtain, talking about learning to say yes to things. It should have been as far out of my comfort zone as I could possible get, but somehow it was just like the warm comfort of resting with an old friend. It was what I wanted. I remember the moment I decided that my goal for the cruise was to dance with him. I remember the moment I knew he would kiss me, and the moment I decided I wanted him to. I got to that moment by saying yes to the experiences I wanted and not worrying that my friends didn’t want to do what I wanted to do, or that I might have to talk to strangers. I felt fulfilled.

I’m not happy with my life. I am very lucky in a lot of ways, I know that. I have my needs met and have time for leisure, surplus for luxuries, and it’s steady. I am very careful to count my blessings and I think that somewhere along the way that morphed into some fabricated love of my job, and my routine, and what I’m doing and creating (or not creating) and putting out in the world.

I’m not happy with it, though. I’m not fulfilled. I am thankful, but not happy.

I can fix it, though. The things that I want from life I can take. I am not helpless in this. One of the characteristics of depression is feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. There are similar triggers for my agoraphobia and anxiety. The awareness that for once I can fix what’s wrong has been not just the silver lining, but the ray of hot, hopeful sun breaking through the cloud.

I want to write so I opened this blog again to talk about my life. I will give that novel outline a new look, rework my characters. I want to create. I will write a song about the beautiful man I met at sea with blue hair and mischief in his eyes. I will move that harmonica out of the top drawer, and play with it now and again. I will start covering the songs I like again on guitar. I will choreograph dances, and learn those routines that make me feel something when I see them online.

I want to express through my dancing as easily as I breathe; that’s the goal. So I’ll keep working. I’ll go to exchanges. I won’t skip weekends. I’ll go to venues I don’t like. I’ll dance with strangers.

I want to travel and eat and see. I want to ride horses and do acro yoga and keep getting stronger and watch the muscles ripple and glide no matter what other people think it looks like. So I will keep up my new program and work another one after. Work on pull ups. Keep working on floating my handstands.

I’m tired of complicated relationships with men who can’t commit or are missing something. I want someone I can be passionate about. Who has time for me. Who wants to adventure. I don’t want to get so caught up in finding SOMEONE that I take ANYONE. I see friends doing this and I don’t want that. I’d rather wait for someone who takes my breath away.

My job is nothing close to what I want or have planned for myself. While I’m not going to run out and start looking for something new immediately, I will start to take a more active part in my professional development. Our company is innovative and I know that if I put in the effort I can at least change what I’m able to contribute and create through work.

 

Productive therapy. I’m going to DO something about this. I deserve to be happy.

 

This all seems cliché in a very “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of way, but it’s how it happened. I’ve always wanted to travel and this trip reminded me that while I am afraid of a lot of things, I am also an independent person, and capable, and I think I may have forgotten until I made some decisions purely for myself.

It was also just a lovely adventure and I’ll probably be talking more about that later, and maybe playing catchup. I have missed this.

I hope someone reads this. I hope this puts something good out for others to consume. THAT is the hope perching just inside my ribs and I can finally hear it singing clearly.

Morning is Broken

{I was searching for the sketch I did of the nightmare I recalled in my last post when I came across some assignments I saved from college. This one was supposed to be recounting part of a normal day in the minutiaist style of James Joyce’s  Ulysses. It gave me the most powerful flashback to the morning I recounted that I thought I’d share it here.}

The mirror bids me good morning as usual. Nightshirt off. Panties on. Good morning to the closet of a bedroom and ugly white walls covered in black and white photos of other people kissing. Good morning to the spots on my face, too small breasts, too wide hips. And now a head of hair that’s about eight colors because I can’t leave it alone. Idiot.

     …ugly. Say it, say you’re not good enough. 

     I’m not good enough. 

     That’s right. You’re lucky, aren’t you? So lucky I keep you. 

Stop it. Stop.

A shake of the head. Hands ball into fists far too late to act as any real defense.

     Don’t think of him. 

A sigh. Stomach flat. Edge of a hip. Okay. Better. A turn. Cellulite.

…not good enough….not good enough….not good-STOP! 

Debating breakfast. I run hands over the straight lines of my collarbones, down arms, almost skinny enough. Grip breasts. Fuck it. Shower.

After the shower, it’s quiet. Anna is asleep still. Elyssa gone. Dance probably. Theatre major. Daisy… probably upstairs in her boyfriend’s bed.

Lonely. Still and lonely.

There’s a tiny patch of sunlight that hits the corner of the living room. It glints off the edge of a bit of fingernail clipping, caught in the buzzcut carpet. Silver polish. Not mine. Should vacuum. Swear I’m the only one that cleans. But that’s all right.

I don’t mind. Keeps my mind busy.

     You’re everyone’s mum then. 

     Not really. 

     You are. But it’s endearing. 

THERE’S a happy thought. Daniel. Lips. Hair. Eyes. Voice. Accent. Hair on his chest. Man. Man. Love. Eyes. So new.

     They’re hazel. That’s what you were wondering. I saw it. 

Movie theater. Valentines Day. Walking home. Hollywood after dark. Down those streets a thousand times but not with him. Hands, laced in the dark. Lips. Chest. The curl of brown hair, chest, stomach, lower. God, how I love…

   …the way “Robo-Cop” sounds with an English accent. 

I sit in the patch of sun. Wedge in next to the sliding glass door, press my back against the wall, heartened by the feeling of my vertebrae pricking my skin from the inside against the plaster and at the same time hating that the feeling cheers me up slightly. I brush my hair, eyes closed. Copper tipped bristles scrape my scalp. The sun’s glowing warmth hits a shoulder and a hip first. Spreads from the points. It’s the wrong angle to be hot, just the sensation of being touched by light. A hum starts in my throat.

No one’s around to hear. Lonely and still. Quiet, so quiet. It’s not that bad.

Two sips of whisky in the flash but I’m not gonna drink it

Swear I’ll make it last til we’re

Drinking out of the same glass again

The rythm of my brushing keeps time to Passenger tunes.

Ahhh Passenger. 

Daniel, Daniel. Where’s my phone? Eyes open. Done with the brush. I stretch in the sun. Curl my toes like tender leaves of grass in a breeze.

My legs are skinny at least, thought they look sickly and pale in the direct sunlight. I can see every tiny blue vein through the vellum I’m made of. Blue. Wormlike. No one will love you. My skin is so easily broken. I’m made of tissue paper.

I’m still in my towel. And I’m sure I should getting off to somewhere. Class perhaps.

Who am I kidding, of course class. I’ve missed far too many days already.

Dress. Leggings. Shoes. Eyeliner. Halfassed and smudged. Powder. Nothing else. I might have a date tonight and that calls for the full nine. Though I get the impression that this one wouldn’t mind if I skipped the makeup. Simplify simplify. Maybe that’s why I l-ike being around him.

Though the sand may be washed by the sea.

The old may be lost in the new

Four will not wait for three

I like my voice at least. Soft, husky, good ear for pitch.

Class. Too hot. Took the stairs and am out of breath. Sitting against the wall, my own misshapen citadel, I fan myself  with the yellow legal pad I keep with me for my lists. And the letters.

Daniel: I miss you. Is that selfish? Very well then, it’s selfish. You’ll never read this. 

     You’ll never know…

     I love him, I love him. It’s pointless. He’ll just go back to England. But I love him. 

Check the ipod, finally. I have to wait. Can’t just check it constantly. Have to have some boundaries. Inbox. Empty. Refreshrefreshrefresh. One message. Not him. Leave it. Glance up. Professor’s chatting. Down again, reach for the watch I left on the bathroom countrer. Stupid. I crane at the clock and feel hideously rude. Two minutes left.

Refreshrefreshrefresh.

Nothing.

     Three never waited for two. 

     Though you will not wait for me

Scratching a heart on the corner of one yellow sheet in pencil. Graphite smudged on my fingertips. Scratching it out again.

     I’ll wait for you. 

Stomach growls. I pretend it’s upset. It is, but for the lack of foord, rather than what sort. Tap my foot, tap the tip of my pencil against the desk. Tap the toes inside my shoe. The usual anxiety building. I should focus on something else.

     I can’t take this deep slow panic. 

     Teach me, teach me not to dream

     Dream deeply

Tap in time to the shift in soundtrack.

Professor. Erin. I call her Erin. Even when I’m not in class. Hands me something. Journal. Never know if I’m doing these right. Wish I could compare with other people. But I don’t talk to them.

What? My hair. I touch it.

It doesn’t look bad.

A grin.

Thanks. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

I cling to the wall. I needed that. Shouldn’t have dyed it. Shouldn’t mess with it. Why do I bother trying to be pretty? Why. But she was kind.

She’s always kind. I wonder if she knows.

Orientation. 3? 4 years? English advising. Saw the tattoo on her wrist. Her smile the first that didn’t make me want to hide under a table. Or run. No more school. Please no more people.

I sat to her right. Or left? So long ago. Only her face left, her wrist. It’s the little things that stick. Most important.

Maybe I won’t be weird here. Maybe… 

She’s my favorite. Role model. Something. Has been since day one. Never told. How would I even go about doing that? So infinitely awkward. I don’t keep my mouth shut enough as is. Maybe at graduation.

You kept me here. 

     I just wanted to be like you. 

Erin, green gem of the silver sea, or at least hope for a place where I’d be comfortable in my skin.

One minute to class time. Attendance poll. The routine.

Blergh

I like class. What I don’t like is leaving my closet of a room. The bathtub, no water, knees to chest, huddled. It’ll be okay. It’s okay. I’m okay. Class is great. Rooms are too big. The walk there too open. Too many people. Like cattle lowing and ambling from one pen to another.

Let the day begin.

Refresh the inbox one last time. One message. Him. Wrong him.

Subject: YOU

Body: need to get back to me. You don’t get to do this. YOU are MINE. Call me. NOW.

-M

And this routine’s back.

 No one else will want you, say it, say it. 

Don’t think of him. Don’t. Don’t. Ipod away. Hiding. Routine. Fear. Loathing. Also routine.

Face in hands. Phone lights up.

New message from: Daniel

Temptation. Class has technically started. But I need this. I need this.

I can resist anything but temptation. Just a peek.

Morning angel. Walk with me tonight? It might rain : ) xx

Worth it. I do love walking in the rain. So does he. And his umbrella’s a perfect fit for two.

Nobody else will want you, say it, say it SAY IT you are MINE….

Morning angel…

I’m nobody who are you? Are you nobody too? Well there’s a pair of us, don’t tell…

Phone away. NOW the day can start.

The Fear in Knowing

I was talking to the Viking the other night. I hadn’t seen him in about a month since I’d been gone one week and then he had a couple trips he’d gone on.

After a hug on the stairs that lifted my feet from the top landing of the stairway where they’d been planted  and felt like the most cinematic reunion ever he followed me into the Blues room and sat with me for a while.

I’d come alone because Kay bailed to watch Civil War with her church friends instead and I’d had a rough week with a lot of things happening outside of my control so I was already feeling rambly and vulnerable.

He teased me gently about being a wallflower and then laughed when he realized I was wearing the very floral dress that started a bit of an inside joke of referring to me as the wallflower, or sending me Wall Flowers songs through facebook.

I explained I’d just got there and was still feeling slightly overwhelmed and he smiled and at the same time I started to say that I enjoy people watching, he said it. I mentioned coming out is always less horrifying for me if I have a friend to hide behind or use as a buffer between me and people. He said something about hoping he didn’t overwhelm me, but in a soft way, like he knew he wasn’t. I told him he wasn’t. That I know him, kind of. He smiled and looked away and tripped over saying “as much as two  people who see each other on a-” he paused and finished with something along the lines of on a regular basis as if he’d only just noticed we see each other at least once a week.

I nodded. We don’t really KNOW each other. Not like I know someone like Kay: her family, all her stories, her tics. “But you’re… familiar.”

The Viking eventually asked me to dance and we did and I could barely follow because he’s so tall and warm and I’d missed him and after a literal month of thinking of him he was finally touching me again.  I don’t remember the song that that was playing and I’d been making a conscious effort to do so since “Ray of Sunlight” solidified the last dance we’d had so perfectly in my mind.

The song ended, because we’d started halfway through, and he asked if I’d like to dance a full song.

So my hand stayed tucked in his and we picked up the next song.

Out of nowhere, really, he got a peculiar look on his face and asked if it was scary for me “being known by someone.” He floors me, sometimes.

It was an oddly deep question and its been all I can think about, since.

I asked him whether he meant in general or- and he followed up by saying, like we were talking about getting to know people and how we kind of see each other regularly and then in relationships, is it scary to be KNOWN by someone.

What I wound up incoherently rambling at him was something along the lines of big-picture, end-goal, no it’s not scary, its something I want. It’s getting there that’s scary. Then he wanted to know why. I rambled some more as we finished up the dance.

I don’t specifically recall much of what I said after that, but I do remember he put my name into the last line of the song we were dancing to and sang it in my ear. He sang my name to me and I don’t remember the words surrounding my name, because I was already flustered, and he confuses me, and it was such a sweet moment that all I can remember is those two drawn out syllables resonating in my ear.

The question remains though: am I afraid to be known?

After days of agonizing over the question I’ve come to the conclusion that like so many other things with me, its not as simple as I am afraid or I am not afraid.

There are stages of knowing someone. I happen to have a LOT of stages. If knowing me came in levels, I’d be like the stairs of some ancient French Cathedral: steep, winding and seemingly endless.

On the outside, I’m “the girl with the outfits” (this is actually something more than one person has called me out dancing because I’m apparently always dressed to kill AND its never the same dress). Watch the outfits long enough and you’ll notice I play at acceptable fashion. I know how to put an outfit together, but I like an edgy sort of comfort in my clothes. Start looking at me to make sense of my outfits and  I have a sunny personality, I laugh easily and appreciate wit and peculiarity. Talk to me and you’ll catch me swearing or letting out a morbid or innuendo laced joke. My humor leans towards violence and self deprecation. I can’t take a compliment.

If you make it to a landing, higher up the staircase, you’ll know I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder but manage it with diet and exercise and meditation, journaling, art therapy: anything to not be on medication. I am also an agoraphobe using social dancing as my exposure therapy. I manage my anxiety and panic disorders with breathing exercises, tapping, grounding, and the occasional self medication with a nip or two from the bottle. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was about 14 that rears its ugly head when I feel like I need more control in my life.

I used to self mutilate but haven’t hurt myself in a while and won’t again because I can’t stand that the last group of scars hasn’t flattened out and turned white but remains raised and ugly and purple for the world to see and judge.

I’ve been abused, stalked, assaulted, threatened- more than once and its left me with an awful lot of triggers and trust issues.

The ugly parts of me are so closely tied to what you find out first about me. They come out early on because a lot of things are triggering for me and I often find I need to explain why I reacted the way I did to something seemingly innocuous.

I’m difficult. I try to be as functional as possible, but I’m under no illusions. The jagged edges of my person are tricky to get around.

Still, it’s not being known that scares me.

I am afraid of being known halfway. I’m afraid of someone starting to know me and stopping before they get to the good parts. I’m afraid of being known only to the point of being crazy, and sad, and angry, and afraid of everything.

I’m afraid of not being given the chance to be known in all the ways that matter. That I’m funny and enjoy taking care of people. That I’m a good cook and like feeding people. I’m a loyal friend but will tell people they’re being unjust or overly judgmental. Dogs, horses, and small children inherently trust me. That I am afraid of everything but that it’s never going to stop me because I can make myself work through anything.

I’ve been hurt in many ways but I love deeply and permanently.

People who see the whole picture, stay.

Its just a rare occasion that they take the time to get that far.

So is being known scary? No.

Playing the crapshoot of letting people get into the gnarly stuff necessary before the finish line and hoping they’ll make it?

Positively horrifying.

 

And of course, because I’m still caught up in this silly crush, I’m stuck thinking of those earnest blue eyes locked on mine and that warm voice singing my name.

If I had to pick someone to let know me, I’d want him.

Desperately.

But I’m afraid to let him get past the charming exterior.

The Golden Afternoon

I garden.

Not particularly well. But I plant, cultivate, and if I’m lucky things grow.

My parents had an enormous yard when I was growing up so in the Spring they would always clear out the flower beds and put in new plants where they were needed. For a while we had a fenced vegetable garden in the front yard.

I am one of the rare Millennials that knows the taste of a fresh sweet pea snapped straight from the vine. I always say I hate tomatoes, but that’s not quite true because if I can pull a wobbly, not quite spherical, fruit from the vine and eat it warm there is nothing better. Store and restaurant tomatoes are disgusting and NOTHING is worse than ketchup or tinned tomato sauce.

I don’t have a big house. I live in a teeny apartment with an even teenier triangular patio, but I garden.We got a lot more rain than expected this year, so a lot of my plants drowned but in general I grow flowers in little (and bigger) pots. I had a corn plant that I grew from a 6 inch tall sprout into  a stalk taller than me in pots of varying size until the wind took it and snapped it in two.

Since Spring is upon us, I thought I’d better start sprucing things up. So this weekend I went out and did some thinning and repotting, and pruning. In doing so, I realized I’ve learned a lot of things about life in general from my dabbling with my tiny urban garden.

I thought I’d share some of them.

Pruning: Pruning used to seem awful to me as a kid. You spend all this time putting so much effort into growing things. You tend plants through all sorts of weather and then with the change of season, or when they grow past a certain point, you hack giant pieces off of them. Sap flows out and it just seems like it should hurt or even kill the plant. Particularly the more severe pruning of trees or rose bushes. But it’s for the plants good. In life sometimes you can put a lot of effort into things and there comes a time when you need to strip what is dead or dying away from you. There are times when you need to cut out pieces that appear completely normal but if allowed to continue growing unchecked could become detrimental to your overall health, happiness, or well-being.

I have done a lot of pruning in my life. In college, I left my sorority for a while to focus on getting help for my numerous mental health issues. I lost a lot of “friends” that way. At this point I’ve paired down to a handful of women. Kay and Jo are two of them. I could have kept the lot, but I would not have been able to continue thriving.

More recently I cut a man out of my life who treated me well, was handsome, and talented, and passionate. He thought I was lovely no matter my mood, or weight, hair color or style. But ultimately the relationship was going nowhere. He wasn’t my boyfriend. He wasn’t going to marry me. We were great together but he wasn’t serious about us and as long as I was seeing him, I was going to keep shooting my every opportunity for a happy committed relationship in the foot. A snip with the shears and I’m free. It hurt for a bit, but I’m better for it.

You don’t even just cut away people. You can cut out Netflix before bed and start reading again. You can cut out Facebook status rants and start blogging or journalling instead. You can cut out meat. You can cut out refined sugar. You can cut out gluten if you want, but I think THAT just makes you an asshole unless you have an actual condition. The point is, sometimes people, just like plants, could use a trim.

Pesticides: I don’t use them. I feel like this says a lot about me as a person,  but I don’t believe in chasing away creatures who appreciate my plants. This doesn’t just go for bugs. Birds like seeds. Cats like wheat grass. Caterpillars REALLY like my Basil. I don’t believe in poisoning or shooing things away. I plant two patches of cat grass: one down (by the cat-castle I use as a garden shelf because it wouldn’t fit in our living room corner) where stray cats can easily get it. One out of the way, harder to reach, for trimming and giving to my cats or juicing into wheat grass shots (which I have only ever done once because they taste like a fart of themselves). I let my basil grow tall and then strip away a bald patch on the stalks midway up. Caterpillars munch the lower leaves and when they hit bare stalk, usually don’t venture farther up. I keep my birdfeeder stocked and no one digs up my planters.

In life I think this roughly translates to realizing that not everyone is out to get you. Not everyone is deliberately trying to ruin your day or be mean to you. They’re just trying to find their own way through life. So be kind where you are fortunate enough to be able to. Don’t take the easy way out and assume someone is just angry, or just naturally has some vendetta against you. And be creative with your solutions.

Patience: Kind of goes without saying. Things take a long time to grow. Waiting pays off. Waiting for home grown basil instead of using the weird flaky dried stuff from the supermarket is infinitely better. But harder. Just like waiting for the right person to come along instead of settling for serial dating, or someone okay, but not quite right. Or waiting to get to know someone before jumping head first into a relationship.

Endurance:  I have a tomato plant that I ‘d thought was dead until a single, tiny, red fruit budded and ripened from one withered vine last week. The thing was brown and barely anchored in a broken pot. A sudden storm that caused flash flooding and power outages got it. I let it go. I figured it would wither and then compost into the soil and be good nutrients for the next thing I planted. Then it flowered. One tiny white blossom and one green leaf dangled from a vine snapped almost completely in two, brown and twisted, and dry on a big brown plant so dry it rattles in the breeze.

Living things endure. The places you think are broken beyond repair can knit themselves together again. I’m a good example. I am made up, essentially, of scar tissue and fears. I went from not being able to walk with a back injury to dancing every weekend. I suffer from mental disorders that should be (and honestly still, sometimes are) crippling but I have a pretty busy social life and spend most of my time being happy.

BUT Some things are beyond help: Plants are really great at looking dead and then suddenly springing back to life with a little TLC – but some things are just dead and need to be left that way. Roots can rot. Fruit can mold. You don’t want anything that springs up tainted. People try to come back into your life and the interim has lessoned the pain they caused you and because you remember the work you put into the relationship you’re tempted to keep trying. Or something be it a person, a job, a hobby, a habit is dead and dying and clearly poisonous to you but again, because of the effort you’ve put into it and the positive memories you have like the first flowering buds have you hesitant to make a clean break. Trash is trash, rot is rot, and just because something once was strong, healthy, even beautiful, if it has molded and decayed, there is nothing to do but throw it out. Let the past be the compost for new experiences.

Being dirty feels good: Wait, no, hear me out! That is not what it sounds like!

Oh wait, yes it is.

Dirt feels good under my nails. Walking barefoot outside recharges me. Splashing in puddles or leaving footprints in the mud is fun.  Stiletto heels and a short skirt feel good. Unabridged fantasies of a saucy nature are delicious and make the workday go faster. Scandalizing your friends with an explicit joke is wonderful. Deliberately pressing your chest into your crush’s when they hug you goodbye creates a lovely little electric zing that lasts for days. Living a little and not always doing what everyone else things is right is a great way to make yourself happy.

Dirt washes off: Even the most rank fertilizer, darkest soil, and most pungent mulch comes off with water. It may take a little effort, a little scrubbing under your nails, or behind your eats (I don’t know how other people garden) but you will get clean again and be better for the experience.

Similarly even the darkest experiences in life are not permanent. You can come clean again. I have had awful experiences. I have done awful things and had awful things done to me. But I am whole.

It takes some effort sometimes to convince myself that I am whole. I will always remember that I once was broken. I still remember the stains from the rotten vegetables, insect stings, and black reeking compost that I’ve come into contact with, but I am not made of those things. I am something completely different. I am me. I am whole and separate and clean. It may have taken some effort, some heavy duty detergent, a scrub brush, but I am more than the dirt I have touched.

Dirt don’t hurt, possibly, the most valuable lesson I’ve taken from gardening.

(Though the caterpillar trick is a close second, tbh)

crushcrushcrush…

 

Do you know how long it’s been since I had an honest to god CRUSH on someone?

This whole thing started as a joke.

He’s tall. He’s handsome.

He’s in a red vest and a grey cardigan with his hair tied back in a low horsetail like some Dickens’ gentleman and actually looks me in the eyes when we’re being introduced.

Oh look, he’s a good dancer and he’s in a purple collared shirt and I would really like to dance with him.

Notice me, Senpai!

Haha ha. Everyone laughs, but I’ve got this weird fluttering in my chest.

He dances with me and he’s funny and the first time he smiles at me our faces are inches away and his eyes are so… blue. The whole blonde hair blue eyes thing was never my thing but he’s different. Its not his face its the expression on his face that I can’t quite put my finger on. Some simple open expression.

He dips me and he’s the only person I’ve ever danced with where I don’t have the roller-coaster-bottom-dropping-out-of-my-stomach moment of fear thinking I might hit the floor. I’ve said it before, as a simple unspoken truth, he will not let me fall. My trust in him is involuntary; it’s a reflex.

One that, between my general anxiety and my history with men, should not be functioning.

The next time I see him at a dance I walk in as he’s signing in. He has neat handwriting for a man. His name has an old world ring to it. He may very well be a viking.

I sit down next to him for a bit and talk and that flutter is still in my chest; it wasn’t a fluke. He’s forgotten my name and looks genuinely upset about it.

I watch him all night and because I’m watching him, I catch him watching me more than once. The nervous flutter in my chest multiplies, one moth to full blown butterflies. Anxious, I walk to my car and hide in the bathroom more than usual. Every time I return he’s where I was. With my friends, chatting or dancing, like he was looking for me.

We finally dance and it’s electric.

Now this time he walks up the stairs to peek into the pre-dance blues lesson. He’s looking at his feet as he climbs the stairs so from my place by the door I see him before he sees me, and then the man I’m partnered with turns me away.

I’m smiling and that flutter is back. It multiplies when I feel his eyes on me. He leans in the doorway for a little while, watching the class, then he’s gone.

Later, Kay and I talk to one of the Viking’s friends, we’ll call him Evin. The Viking joins us. The two are nearly a perfect foil. Tall and blonde, short and brunette. Both have hair past their shoulders and a sharp wit.

They lean against each other and jokingly mimic a Russian accent. They bond over their hair in jest. He compliments the shoulder length bob I’m still not sure about. His blue eyes sparkle. He shifts and leans against the open door of the dance studio beside me.

He asks me to dance and we do. It’s terrible. We wind up talking more than anything. My feet can’t discern the difference between my heartbeat and the music playing in the room. I laugh when he starts in, excellent as always, and compliment his fancy footwork.

A glow appears in his cheeks. The flush over his cheekbones is not pronounced but his face is so close to mine. He cannot take a compliment. At least not from me. He stumbles over his words saying “that’s it, keep her focused on your feet. she won’t notice that you can’t hold a conversation.” He looks down. I stumble and laugh.

I want to kiss that blushing cheek. I want to compliment everything I know about him until it’s easy for him to take the praise. The flutter in my chest becomes an ache, like stretching a sore muscle. A delicious sort of pang.

We laugh and bond over an ineptitude in small talk.

Kay is sitting with Evin and they’re laughing. The Viking and I stand. Evin tells an inappropriate story. The Viking says something incredibly witty and then he’s gone.

I file the comment away for later and when I sit down across from him the next time he’s alone and I’m not being twirled around the floor like a cyclone I bring it up.

He shares the story and it involves Richard Nixon and “tasteful Dick” and a girl who didn’t quite appreciate the joke.

I appreciate it and tell him so.

The flush is back in his cheeks and we’re laughing together and that stupid flutter in my chest is making me feel like I might float off the floor and he asks me to dance again.

He just comes alive on the floor. He’s so soft spoken and sweet standing still, but he’s so powerful and confident in motion. I can’t match him. I want to so badly.

I laugh at myself disparagingly. I don’t know what I’m doing with my feet. I can’t keep up with his footwork.

He leans away a bit so he can look down at my feet and I feel the nerves. Its the strangest sensation: wanting his attention, but not his scrutiny.

He only says gently “no, see, you’re doing little..” and he names some step I don’t catch because I’m lost in my own pulse again.

I would have kept him for the last dance but I was interrupted by a friend instead.

Before we separate, I tip my head up to meet those blue eyes and say with a grin that he has to say goodbye to me. I’m not sure if it counts as flirting, but it felt right. Teasing, light, and it means I’ll get to see him one more time before going home.

When he does find me after the dance he hugs me goodbye. My arms loop around him and he gives my waist a squeeze and it’s the first time he’s touched me in non-dance context.

His cheeks are pink again. His eyes are deep and blue pulling away.

I have a stupid crush on him and even reading over the most prominent moments in my minds eye, I cannot for the life of me tell where it happened.

It’s just consuming me, slowly.

 

BUT

And this is a big but (ha) given that I don’t understand men, BUT:

I think he may like me back.

Molting

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. I have never managed to keep them.

But every year in like November or February I usually come up with something I want to change and get on it. I usually manage to stick with these little changes.

When I was like 14 I decided I wanted to stop biting my nails. And I did.

Last year in March I decided I was sick of gaining weight after throwing out my back so I decided I was going to get healthy. I started going to the chiropractor, started working out, got my nutrition in line.

I am today 56 lbs lighter than I was. I fit in a pair of jean shorts I bought in high school when I was swimming 3 hours and dancing 2 hours a day. I can do more pushups than my brother. I’d say it was a success.

This year, my goal for myself was set back in early December.

I wanted to reclaim myself. That wasn’t the goal, really. It was far too vague, but it was definitely on my mind.

When I was younger I was wild. I tried out for bands, went dancing alone (or with friends), stayed out all night walking around Hollywood, then drove to the beach on the way home to watch the sun come up. I played drunk kickball with my friends in the park near our sorority house after midnight then hiked to Denny’s for pancake puppies. I stalked musicians on twitter and “bumped into them” outside restaurants.

I wrote short stories and played guitar.

I sang in the shower and danced around my kitchen.

I went to art shows.

I crept around the library like a ghost at night just before it closed and consumed 20 books a week.

I was social. I met new people all the time.

Even at my saddest I was on fire for life. I would use depression and anxiety to create something new.

In December I didn’t know where that girl went, or quite when she went. She was just gone. I wanted to find her, but I’m just SO afraid of everything these days I didn’t know where to start.

I’ve been an Agoraphobe since Junior High, if we’re being honest. Walking the halls was too much for me so during break and lunch I’d stay in the library, tucked up by the window watching everyone else, or reading. When I hit my stride in high school, I never really let it bother me as much. In the 16-20 range I worked through it easier. It just seems that whenever the joie de vivre left me, the phobia crept back in.

I decided that this year, now that I’m healthy and more confident in myself physically, that its a good time to start putting myself out there again. Maybe if I started going out and doing things with other people, I could start reclaiming my joy. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, now, I took up social dancing, and even got my roommates into it. As a result I’ve made new friends who are encouraging me (whether they know it or not) to go out and try more new things. It’s begun to feed into itself.

After a night out dancing, I would feels so good. Confident. Happy. I could take on the world if I had to. The sucky bits of work sucked less. I slept well. I jumped into my workouts with more gusto. Everything was better the days following a Blues dance. I called it my dance high.

That high has been lasting longer and longer each time I go out.

I looked at myself the other day and realized it might not be a dance high. I may just be happy again.

I’m dancing again, that goes without saying, but it’s not just blues. I listen to music again. I EXPLORE music again like I haven’t in years. I was always the girl who knew the underground, indie, new comer, up-and-comer bands and artists you HAD to listen to. I had a lyric for every moment. The perfect song for anyone. I’m getting there again.

Instead of listening to Netflix or YouTube while I cook or clean, it’s music. And I find myself dancing. All arms one moment. Jazz hands! Disco arms! Other times I’m swaying like a leaf, drifting on a summer breeze.

I’ve picked up my guitar again. An acquaintance from the Blues scene wants to form a band and I want to try out.

I started singing in the shower again some time before Dee moved in with us.

I’m a huge fan of adult coloring books.

I read before bed instead of watching Netflix and I’m back to finishing off 2+ books a week.

I’ve started writing again obviously. It’s not just this blog, either.

I dusted off some bits of fiction I workshopped in college and then abandoned somewhere in the mix. They’re lovely. I don’t know why I let them go.

..

What I’m trying to say in all this is that my life has color again. Hope.

I don’t set resolutions in definite terms because it doesn’t work that way.

If I had set a resolution to pick up all my old hobbies, it would have flopped. I would have stared at my short stories and lost faith that I could ever be creative again. I would have picked up my guitar and not had anything I cared to play. I would have played the old songs I knew and got irritated that I couldn’t play them like I used to.

Instead, I started doing something different. Something I knew I could do. Something I had support for. Something that would make me happy and get me out of the house and start me on a new trajectory.

Everything else fell back into place.

Its not the activities that matter, it’s how you feel.

Right now, I feel good. Not all the time. But in general, and most of the time, I feel great. Feeling great feeds into itself just like feeling awful does, so if I continue on. If I set attainable goals for myself I can keep moving forward and putting myself on the right path.

And I plan on doing just that.