we all fall down

Love, soulfood

You can fall apart anyway that you choose.

I fell apart for a full year.

Some hours, days, publically because I needed everyone to see my heart being ripped out. Some hours, days, it was just quiet tears, muted sobs, gasps for air alone. In a classroom. At the grocery store. Those were the times that I couldn’t control it. Many hours it was in my therapist’s office. Long explanations of how it all came to be, my personal accountability, the injustice of a dying partner. Every Tuesday at nine I rattled and wailed until I felt my soul burning hot, festering and finally purging the sorrow that coated all of my being. Each time I would find my feet, walk out the door and magically it filled up again.

I fell apart naked, in my back yard under the desert sun. I would wait until my flesh was on fire. It made the loneliness retreat somewhere further inside. I cocooned myself in my hammock. Savored every ounce of the sensation of ease. I tried to stock pile it for later that day, for later that year. I got in my car and drove. I got on a plane and flew. I got on my knees and prayed.

I fell apart on my couch in sweltering heat. Slowly watching my body shrink. Taking long labored drags from joints. I fell apart in dance, hip hop, slow jams, gut wrenching love ballads. I danced my pain all over my tile floor. I fell apart with my friends, over dozen of phone conversations, dozens of nights full of wine and infinite good-bye hugs.

I fell apart before, during and after sex with strange men. I clawed my agony into their backs. Whispered please, I’m loveable, in my moans. But none of them were willing to witness a broken bleeding woman. They wanted me to be a me that I wasn’t even sure still existed. And still I tried. It was hallow and insincere. I oscillated between vulnerable self-disclosure and telling them absolutely nothing at all. I learned everything:
People like to talk, I can listen. People are not trying to bare your burdens, I pretend to be light well. I can say every single thing that’s hard to say and only hear back, why are you telling me this? I’m telling you because I want you to see me. I need empathy. I need the distraction of you for just a moment.

Yeah, well I need you to chill, I just met you. Heard.

I fell apart through ink spilled over paper, bleeding sad poetry, antidotal stories, words of my disbelief, affirmations after affirmation:

You are worthy. The Universe is inherently good. Good things ARE happening to you. Trust the timing of your life. Breathe.

I fell apart a thousand times in the arms and ears of the man who put me there. Not maliciously but due to circumstance and the instinctual tug to find love and cling to it for dear life.

I fell apart with a baby in my arms. Blessedly rocking and kissing the only creature that can make everything okay. I threw my head back and screamed more than once don’t you fucking dare take this from me too.

Suffice it to say, I fell apart. Totally. Falling and learning are synonymous. I learned who my family is. The places that are safe to be unbuttoned. I learned all of the corners of my shadow and it turns out that even beneath the buried trauma, pain, cowardness, mistrust and anger is a pulsing orb of light. I am good. I am worthy. I am love.

And then in a way that I have yet to find words for the shards of me started recoagulating into a breathtaking powerhouse of a woman. Cautioned, steady, open, delightful. She is okay. And will continue to be okay through all of the future storms. A seasoned sailor of trepid seas. Riding.

You know how you know that you’re healing. It’s when you look sorrow in the eye, lean into his chest, stay there for an impossibly long time. Then because you can, you pull away, relock eyes and smile.

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Don’t Worry I Did Eventually Call My Therapist

soulfood, therapy

I should go see my therapist but I don’t want to. I feel a little like a five year old digging her heals into the sandbox, admittedly. I just don’t want to have to show up a month later and unpack the shit show that I have made of my life. Is it shame? Is it embarrassment? Probably both.

To have to be witnessed when you don’t even know what’s going on yourself sounds miserable. The alternative however, seems to be to lose your mind all alone. Maybe it’s best that way. Accountability at this juncture isn’t good for anyone especially me.

 

Grief, it does this thing that reminds me of that one really hard level of Donkey Kong in the second railroad world. It starts off with Donkey and Diddy in a tiny rail car, you have to go through this ominous abandoned coal mine with a broken track. You have to execute these breath-taking jumps from one broken bit to the next. If you don’t hit A and B in the right sequence, while traveling at the exact right velocity or else you die. Just fall to the bottom of the screen. Snap, down one more life. And then almost cruelly it takes you back to the start to do it all over again.

 

It’s like that. But sometimes it feels like your big brother holding your head under water at the public pool everyone else frolicking about while you try to both not make a scene and not inhale two lungs full of chlorinated water. Other times it feels like an underwater tea party with a couple of friends at the bottom of the pool. Air bubbles escaping through smiling teeth, count to ten, bob back to the surface. I’ve been drinking a lot of tea these days.

Perfectionist

Love, pretty things, silly goose, soulfood, your body

These bodies that we’re in. What a funny device. All of this ambulating. The arch of your back on the inhale. The way that you kiss the top of my head, and then the center of my forehead. The back of your thighs.

 

Sometimes I get the urge to wrap your body around mine and take off down a rolling grassy hill. Sort of sure that we’ll gash our knees open but so delighted by the joy of momentum and gravity and I could care less. Grass stained and out of breath, let’s do it again.

The Choke Hold Of Possibility

Love, soulfood, your body

What is this thing that we do. We will let someone between our thighs, let them caress the parts of us that we would never expose in public. We will whisper the song of lust, desire and fantasy into their mouth gaped open in a resounding yes. But we won’t tell that same person how we feel about them. We wont say I like you and I don’t know what that means. We won’t say every night I lie in my bed reimagining the sensation of our bodies discovering and reciprocating. I won’t say that for a moment yesterday I slipped into a day dream about us having a cook out in our backyard, our kids playing tag weaving their lanky bodies between adults. One of us shouts hey be careful and then we lock eyes because truly this is what we’ve always wanted.

 

I can’t say any of that. I’m careful to not always be the one who instigates the text. I hold my breath every time that you say you’re on your way over. Still surprised when the door bell finally rings. Sometimes the butterflies will bubble up into my esophagus leaving me between dry heaves and fainting in anticipation, of your next word, the next time you kiss me on the top of my head, the next time.

I have no idea if there will actually be a next time.

Girl get your life together. This man knows nothing about you. Has no obligation to you. There’s a good chance that you terrify him. Hell there’s a good chance that you terrify you too.

So here we are. I inhale you like the air right after a rainstorm when you’re laying next to me. And I want to throw up every time that you text me. I hold my breath for thirty seconds and then I look. Exhale. I’m irrational and you never miss a beat.

Scratch That

Love, soulfood

You know what, never mind. I just got so caught up in my little girl emotions, that I forgot who I was.

 

Girl you are a mastermind of the interpersonal relationship. You are an artist, a poet. You are a student of psychology and resilience. You are living an authentic life. You are thirty years old. You have made all of the strange turns in life. You have learned through blood sweat and tears how to negotiate, respect and care for a partner. You are selfless and you are fierce.

 

Yeah but still every time that I see you I wonder if it will be the last.

education

Love, soulfood

The Things You Taught Me:

To love bar soap.
How to accept rejection gracefully.
What it is like to be betrayed by your own boundaries.

How to argue my point.
To laugh early and often
That sometimes there is no explaining myself, stop trying.

To witness my own mastery in fabricating the depth of love that I wanted so badly.
The joy of having a man to travel with.
The diagnosis for the pain in my belly,
feels like a swallowed scream,
often doubling me over in pain.
Her name is grief.

The art of cooking with butter.
What it feels like to dance with selflessness.
To love jazz music.

How it feels to be the desperate one.

When to let go of other people’s judgment.
To recognize that regret often coats the soles of my feet,
forcing cantilever, deliberate steps.
How to be profoundly diplomatic in all points of contention.

The sting of indifference.
How to give my self emotional sutures,
forcing the sides of my flesh back together,
healing over the void that I called destiny, mutual, boundless, love.

How to wear a scar.

Slow Jam

Love, soulfood

I miss you when I’m cutting an onion. Half way through when I would normally yell uncle and bring you the knife, I just stand there and lean into the fire welling in my lash line, spilling down my face.

I miss you when it’s too early to be dancing at a bar, but I’m old and can’t wait until midnight to get the party started any more. So, instead of pounding the rest of my drink and reaching out for your hand. I slowly sip a gin and tonic, reciting affirmations like dance like no one is looking, and dance like everyone is looking, and you only live once, and fuck it this is your joy, and waltz out to a barren floor and do my thing.

A stadium of narrowed eyes glance up from their phones and scanning my body. I see them, every one of them. Ninety percent disgust me. Exactly one of them is drunk enough to remove himself from his stool to ask me to dance. He’s a short hispanic man who thinks that every song is the rumba. You know, these hips grew up on hip hop and soul jams, so I’m forced to dig deep into my muscle memory. Where I pull out those months of Zumba taught by a peppy Latino named Frank and that time that we took bachata lessons and the instructor said in no uncertain way that it was a shame that such a smooth man like yourself was partnered with me. But I make do, because I feel the most like me when I’m in motion, and at least someone was willing to be my surrogate partner.

I miss you when last call comes and I get ushered out of the club in a flood of people. People asking for my number. Small hispanic man asking when I would be there again. I don’t know, I grimace and tipsily wedge my way through the crowd. Once I hit the night air I realize it’s almost two. How did that happen. And more impressively how am I not dead, that was multiple solid hours of dancing for a girl who barely does any cardio. There I am, stripped of inquiring eyes. Alone. In the dark, dead streets of a city that I’m beginning to despise.

If I’m lucky enough to make it home with out being accosted, I walk in my door lie down on my couch and slowly breath. Attempting to regulate the excruciating pain of being one person in a 1,000 square feet, that used to feel far too small. Now it feels like the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum of my shattered expectations, buried in a tomb that implanted in my left atrium. When I’m awake at night because it’s still hard to fall asleep without anyone to curl in next to I hear it. Well I hear the blood pounding around it, making a new path, doing everything that it can to keep me alive.

Alive some hours more than others. It’s just those little things that happen all day long that remind me that alone is not a home. It’s a temporary residence. I like to keep the bed made and not make too much noise when I come in. Out of respect for it’s impermanence. So that when the time comes for me to move out of the slow dread of solo that the transition will be easy. Don’t worry I’m being careful about packing back up this baggage, going to try and take as little of it as possible on the next flight.

 

Solid Advice

Love, soulfood, therapy

Sometimes the best advice is novice advice. Seriously. I’m in the business of counseling people. Counseling is actually a total misnomer. Really what you’re supposed to do is basically say nothing, and then just paraphrase everything that the person already said. Do not give advice. Do not tell antidotal stories. Do not interject from your own experience. Above all else do not tell them what to do. It is not how humans make change. Self-motivation is a real thing. In fact it is the only thing.

 

Hi my name is Reagon and I’m straight trippin’ over this man that I’m in emotional limbo with. We’re at that juncture where I carry my stomach in my sternum, my emotions and thoughts splayed out all over my insides like a broken mirror. Reflecting things that I wish weren’t there.

 

So, I start calling friends. It’s amazing how many people don’t answer on a Tuesday afternoon, it’s like you all have lives or something. But the truth is that the person who picked up the phone said exactly what I needed to hear. She tempered, “Sorry for playing the devils advocate but why are you doing this to yourself?” We talked about the reality that somewhere inside I feel unlovable. Undeserving. That I self-sabotage and project my shit on the other person.

 

Damn. Occasionally someone says something that pries back my eyelids to a reality that I haven’t even had the balls to admit to myself. Somewhere inside you feel unlovable. Fuck, there it is again.

 

That’s all of those deeply knotted familial roots. A household full of people, slated to love me unconditionally that told me that I wasn’t shit most days. Still ring my phone to remind me every now and again. My mother thought that she was keeping me humble. She didn’t want to see another beautiful girl acting like the world owed her something. Didn’t want to see another talented girl receiving gifts of veneration. Didn’t want to believe that things could be easy, different, promising for her own baby. Maybe it wasn’t a lack of faith but instead the narrowed perspective of trauma, the tunnel vision of overwhelm, the darkness of loneliness.

 

Either way who in the fuck does that? Sick people. I say that with a lot of understanding and love. Broken people work hard to create gravity. Misery loves company. And there I was absolutely splendid.

 

I bought that narrative. I became obsessed with perfection so that no one would see the truth. I excelled as a distraction to the shit show that was our home. I self-loathed. I gave sheepish consolations to people that told me that I had the world in my palm. That I could do anything. That I was enough. Okay, sure.

 

I have spent ten years de-programing myself. Replacing “you’re a piece of work” with you’ll have peace and it will work. Some days are easy. I look in the mirror and I see God. Some days I look in the mirror and dissect every part of my physical, emotional and mental visage. And those days mash up into one stream of life that I sail every damn day.

 

You see we get comfortable. Start believing that we’re fortified and over it. Grown and transformed. Only half braced for the bottom to fall out. For the man that steadily and sweetly reassembled the pieces of you that had been devastated by the natural disaster that is having a family and attempting to recreate that family.

 

That man. He pushed me every single day to chase my dreams and then come home in the evenings and enjoy the fruit of my labors. He was my fucking rock. Steadfast. My creative springboard. He was laughter, play, brutal honesty, and mostly the safe space that I needed to find myself. To love myself. And he’s gone. I’m loosening the grip on that heart cord but it’s hard.

 

It’s hard to stand up, really stand up, by yourself when you’re used to someone having their hand gently resting at the base of your spine. There for when you get tired, when you’re carrying too much and when you just need to relax.

 

I’m a fucking mess. A mess with good friends who understand all of it. Who have been there. Who remind me over and over, you are one of the strongest people that I know. You’ve got this.

 

She says, “It all boils down to spending time and enjoying the presence of another person. Simple.”

 

It is actually that simple. And sometimes I need someone to keep it real with me. To do the bad therapist thing and to tell you a story about herself, “There was a period of time where I told Jeff that I loved him and he wouldn’t say it back. I just had to hold that down for him for a while and trust that things would come around. He said, I have a lot of love for you I just can’t say that I love you yet. And you can’t do anything but have respect for that.”

 

That’s the mark of a strong woman. A fortress. A woman sculpted by the wind and the flow of failed relationships and broken hearts. Standing her ground in honesty and patience. Exactly the woman that I needed to talk to.

How To Be Single

Love, science says, therapy

If the word single reminds you of the number one, or an old sitcom from the 90’s, or a hot new Beyonce track then this post is not for you.
For the rest of us:
If the word single sounds like a metaphorical probation officer strapping your ankle with a bracelet of how in the hell do you portion a meal for one, piling the other side of the bed high with pillows so that sleep doesn’t feel so hollow and the constant impasse of dragging yourself out in public alone, again, then have a seat, let’s talk.

Singledom… singlehood … is a spectrum really. There are all kinds of ways to be single, maybe it’s working for you maybe it’s not. Single feels to me like skinny dipping on a pitch black night all alone. I’m not quite sure if it’s wholly exhilarating or if it feels like I might accidentally crack my head open on a rock and bleed to death right there next to the dock, fishermen stumbling over my corpse in the morning. (I thought about being less dramatic in that illustration, but it’s actually pretty accurate.)

Where ever you fall on the single spectrum here’s some advice, from a professional.

 

Step 1: Take Care of Yourself-

This means so many things. At the very least you need to maintain the status quo of standard of living, attention to hygiene, time in nature, amount of exercise that you were gifting yourself while you were still in a relationship. Derailing into a bowl of pity soup is not helpful. It is helpful to increase your self care from the tinniest things to the big ones. Those things are quite literally the antidote to depression. Think you’re above becoming depressed, well you’re wrong. Also, take some fish oil, it can’t hurt.

 

Step 2: Put Out the Word that You’re Single-

but also that you have a black belt in Karate and a ferocious guard dog. Your people might know their people. Seriously.

Gone are the days of the small hunter and gather community where one moment you’re gathering sticks for the fire and the next moment Fred Flintstone comes over and clubs you over the head drags you back to his cave and has his way with you. Not that any of us are upset about that. But what I’m tryin’ to say is that humans have not evolved to comprehend solitude. Our psyche, our physical bodies, our hormonal bodies were not wired for you to sit your ass on the couch and binge watch Game of Thrones every weekend. Neither can we make any sense of Tinder, isolation, self-loathing or the sinking sense of hope inching further and further away on a physiological level.

All of that is to say, do not allow yourself to be alone all of the time. Put some thing exciting on your calendar and…

 

Step 3: Go Out in Public-

Maybe your goal isn’t even to get into another relationship. That’s totally fine, great even. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek human contact. We are social creatures, surely you know that. Every single thing about life that matters in the end are the relationships that we created at this phenomenal meeting of place and time. Don’t miss a single day of the opportunity to be you in relationship. It’s the why.

 

Step 4: Make Friends Above All Else-

The wind might blow South one day and that guy or gal that you were ‘talking’ to, might just fade away. All of those pieces of yourself that you hooked into them, because you were grappling and any hand up would do. Those just get ripped out. And it will be fine, but it will be just you again. Well you and your friends. Make sure they’re there first.

 

There’s more, I’m just figuring those parts out still.

To Have and Let Loose

Love, pretty things

 

I knew a boy who ate kiwi rinds.

One who apologized with Coldplay songs.

One who played singing bowls.

 

I knew a boy who hid chocolate bars behind soup cans.

One who filled our garage with dumpster dives and stolen goods.

One who declared- you are so beautiful- every day.

 

I knew a boy who took his maple syrup cold.

One who could massage away the world.

One who would carry me down the stairs on a whim.

 

I’ve known boys.

I’ve had boys.

I’ve held boys.

 

How sweet it is to have a man.

 

_________________

Cover photo cred: Caitlin Shearer