Oysters two

Oysters two

An order was placed and delivered.
I was distracted, and when I twist
to look back to you—
two, about to slurp together

stare, never eaten one before
never even at a table serving
unaware I’d never had 
one, coming straight from my family

you noticed my glare, put on body language 
of “what? who cares?”
why didn’t you ask, encourage, 
seem interested in trying

out-of-sight, out of your mind
our backs nearly touching
you ask, anticipating me
no, afterthought doesn’t get the first slurp

two, chins up
traitor
why continue this pairing of salt?
“What is there to be interested in?”

the life you crave is out of reach,
limited
you have a predisposed idea of my limits
in the world, your trail 

two, shoot together
watch the salty slink down your throat
lost already to a secret club, and I
out on a sting, unraveling

you prepare an oyster for me
I shoot, like you say
I chew, chew
I need to chew faster

gone before I’ve tasted the salt mentioned
I’ll try again
I’ll keep trying
“What is there to be interested in?”

pair you together, why don’t you
peel, pulling, never-ending now
prying, sinking across the island
crisp paper holds you, and yours

----

This is the form I'm working in right now and it feels good. Shaping it is more joyful to me than revising my other work. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I've been craving and reading more poetry—Sylvia Plath, Giacomo Leopardi, Mary Oliver, and more Maggie Nelson. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I've been distracted. I’ve been distracting myself from the things I claim are important to me. The brevity and immediacy of poetry matches the way I’ve been thinking. So, I’ll start telling stories in this form. 

slash-and-burn

I picked up my camera from the booth, with metallic black nails, and held the viewfinder up to my face. I pushed my glasses up to my forehead to get a better focus on him. He said, "you look like a stereotype." My shutter made it’s clunky click anyway. I lowered the camera to my thighs. My birthday pancakes hadn't arrived yet. 

---- 

I'm aware of him immediately when he walks in. He always looks the same—wearing a mismatched scarf around his neck and a dark cowboy hat, even though it is over 90º. Everyone notices him and our collected energy adjusts, tightens. His character is unwelcome. He walks toward me. He paces behind me to get to the bathroom. Once he sits on the other side of the coffee shop, I notice I had been holding my breath. Almost in a whisper, only loud enough for the friend less than a foot away to hear me under multiple conversations, I said, "I know that if something happened, I'd be able to handle it. I could say something...And you guys are here. I know I'm safe, but I hold my breath anyway."

----

I googled “slash–and–burn.” It’s a method used to cut down and burn the forest to create an empty field. If I burned it all down, what could I accomplish in emptiness? 

Cut out negativity, invaluable thoughts, worthless wants, tricks society played, things I need to unlearn, the shit I tell myself that I recognize as shit but it’s still in there anyway. Burn out what he told me, and I believed. Cut down my perfectionist tendencies, the obstacles keeping me from growth. Burn my expectations. Simmer the impatience, the anxiety, I have with myself. Burn down the previous versions of my self. Take only the seeds with me (this is a lame metaphor).

Maybe then, in an empty field, I could do whatever I want. I could replant the good stuff, the important stuff, only the best versions of myself. I’d stare at the empty field, too unsure of myself to make any sudden moves. 

“Dream” feels like a childish concept to me, right now. Reality should take priority. I’ve not been allowing myself to think any bigger than surviving day-to-day, week-to-week, first of the month to the first of the month. 

If I’m capable of near emptiness, would I allow myself to experience gratitude for everything good I am doing for myself? There would be more space for this habit.

I’m afraid the vastness could invite too much of an impulse to experience everything new, distracting me from my ambitions.

----

“I give myself up to the possibility of true light.” - Tonight I’m Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson 

----

We were both self sabotaging before our birthdays, separately and together. It was one of the ways we used each other.

----

Any time I felt scared or anticipated something graphic on the screen, I would turn my head and press my face through the crack between seats. I’d look up to the window at the top back of theatre and watch the inverted picture.  Sometimes it felt like I was seeing an advanced screening—I was being let in on the secret before anyone else—of the bigger picture happening behind me. I would listen to dialogue, the sounds of a character being killed, gunshots, explosions, gruesome deaths. I’d still gather the information needed to move the story forward. Minimizing the visualization of horror was a way I protected myself. 
 
Playing Be The Cowboy by Mitski on repeat.

"Take up space!"

You shouldn’t touch my knee until you know why there are five scars on it, four screws in it. 

----

I keep reading books that are in a structure and tone of voice I’d like to write in. I don’t know if it’s teaching me or stunting my work. I fear it is keeping me from developing on my own. But when I read it I feel inspired and encouraged. Like they’re showing me possibilities of what I can work toward.

----

We always want confirmation that what we think is happening, whats in our head, is real. A confirmation we’re not crazy. We’re not making this up. Its fact. If we get that confirmation, does it make us better or worse? Would you rather be haunted by never knowing, or accept the truth no matter how ugly and painful? 

----

Last week, Cate text me for the first time in years. We talked like we always have since freshman year when we became best friends instantly. That night, feeling nostalgic, I plugged in my hard drive and looked through my 2010 photos. I even opened up iTunes to play my top tracks playlist; my iTunes is a time capsule for roughly 2006-2011. I realized I carried two or three cameras with me at all times then—my 35 mm, my point-and-shoot, and my iPhone 4. 

I snapped photos of friends—friends in my dorm bed against the two giant windows I loved, friends in the snowstorm we had in January that cancelled class for a week but we were all stuck on campus anyway, the football game the boys had in their underwear in the snow between the boys and girls dorms, the rugby team I hung around with, and later drank with and made-out with. There were photos of my college boyfriend looking up to me with a purple and blue bruised eye; he had a concussion during the first two weeks we were together. I wonder if he’s high in any of these photos. I wasn’t good at noticing when he was high. There were photo shoots in wild sunflower fields, train tracks, and browning parks with tiny river-like streams. Several photos from our “camping trip.” About six of my closest guy friends, a group of three girls who the guys had crushes on, and I stayed about thirty minutes east of our college town near some lake. After the campfire died, the three girls slept in their tent. Ian and I stayed up late talking in his Jeep about his parents maybe separating. Eventually, we both went into the boys tent to get a few hours of sleep. I didn’t think anything of sleeping in the boys tent; I’d slept in their company before. I’d rather sleep in the woods next to friends than girls I barely knew. There were photos of snow-covered trees from my three day stay in the mountains in Colorado. Photos of the boy I was staying with—the man, now father of two, who’s been texting me lately. I want nothing to do with him. 

Most of the photos are probably not technically good, but they are important to me. They give me an accurate look into this past life of mine. I know the life I’m living now is equally important, and I’ll want to look at what is documented now in ten years. I want to get back into the habit of carrying my film camera, regardless of how hipster girl it makes me look, and taking shitty photos that are just for me. 

----

The phrase “take up space” is sitting with me. One of my Barre3 instructors started saying it during the warm-up section as a way to encourage the women in class to move bigger, “take up space!” And I would. I’d squat lower. Reach my fingertips farther to the corners of the room. 

I think about how I’m taking up space in conversations too. Am I speaking when I should be listening? Am I listening when what I think could be important to speak out loud? 

My body takes up space too. I try to not judge it, but I’m aware of what my body feels like on a day-to-day basis. I note how it feels in a space, how it feels in my clothes. I consider if I like how it feels, or not. All answers are ok. 

A person’s energy takes up space too. 

When I write and publish it on the internet, I consider what kind of space I’m taking up. I overthink if my voice belongs. I have to constantly give myself permission. I have to keep feeding myself the line, “your story matters,” even if it’s untrue. My friend Zach reminds me to flip my internal line that, “nothing matters (so why do I do it)” into a positive “nothing matters (so do it anyway)!”

----

I haven’t been showing up to this project the way I intended to. I set out for it to be weekly. I needed to force myself into the discipline of finishing a piece of work and putting it out into the world. The last two weeks have felt like a failure. I didn’t send anything, and even though I *want* this project to be imperfect, my inner perfectionist has been screaming at me to do better. I have to keep reminding myself that sending weekly isn’t the most important thing. Writing is the most important thing. 

----

It is common for most people to fear being alone. It might be because they’re afraid that once they’re alone they will hate the person they are with. That isn’t why I’ve hated being alone. I’ve previously hated being alone because I was being left, someone was removing themselves from me. That’s what caused hurt and discomfort. If I’m alone to start, I’m just fine. It gives me a lot of time and space to notice myself more. I learn more when I’m not focused on anything external. 

I fear if I commit myself too much to solitude people will forget me. I’ll pass on building deep relationships, and one day I’ll die.

----

I winked at you, but I don’t remember when. I just remember doing it. You think you’re special, but I do this often. I promise I’m not attempting to make you think that I’m more special or interesting than I am. 

*“I’m not going anywhere, so I’m on board with waiting as long as I have to. I’m happy we met and I’m excited to get to know you.”*

You have no plans today

—liking yourself today will be critical.

You make calculated decisions. You’re making a choice every time. It doesn’t need to be the right choice every time, but the power is yours every time. You decided what is right and wrong. You must live with how these decisions add up.

You wake up earlier now, or you’re trying. Some mornings are smoother than others meaning that the pen moves or the keyboard clicks. One morning this week, you made coffee, wrapped yourself in your blanket and stared at the screen. You’re telling yourself that it is all okay. It is all part of it. This week was more frustrating, because you considered everything you wrote to be trash. You tell a friend about the content and he says, “keep journaling,” not to minimize it but to remind you of the distinction between writing and journaling. He’s right. Despite the wild freedom you have, there are certain topics to keep experiencing and ruminating on.

You step onto the patio and play “Thinning Out” on your iPhone. You look up to the hooks left by the previous tenant, look inside for the electric outlet on your bedroom wall, and look back at the hooks to guess how long of an extension cord you’ll need to hang a string of lights. You decide you’ll start looking for a bistro set after you have a bed-frame. 

A whole afternoon and part of an evening can be devoted to finishing a good book. You finish the book after you nearly finish an entire frozen pizza. 

It’s common for you to get to know strangers. It is new to you to consider how much of yourself you can give away in these conversations and how much should remain close to you. How much of you can you allow to be available, right now?

You pause, again. You’re still stopping yourself. You look at your iPhone and Headspace has pushed a reminder to your screen — “When you find yourself resisting something or someone, rather than allowing yourself to be distracted, gently lean into it.” This is impeccable timing. You force your attention back to your work.

You might need to eat sandwiches for a few meals this week. You need to stop being paranoid and checking your bank account multiple times per day. Repeat, “you’re ok,” to yourself out loud a few times. Keep acknowledging that you are saving for pieces of furniture and artwork you truly love and a home does not need to be “finished,” home will be built slowly. 

Twice this week, you realized you wanted to be at home. This is progress from feeling societal pressure to be “out having fun.” 

You’re leaving a lot of space for joy to exist by going slowly. It’s noticeable how comfortable you’re getting with being yourself no matter the situation. There is a relief to not living carefully, not needing to be overly considerate of each action for approval. There is the opportunity to show all sides of your personality as you please. Perhaps, step zero for being in solitude requires that you like yourself. 

Writing isn’t lonely (it is done alone). There is always something to absorb the overthinking and emotion. This is a small cheat and it’s available every minute of the day. If another person isn’t there to listen, if whatever you’re saying doesn’t need to be heard but simply released from you, write it. It will be trash to disregard or it will solidify a thought. You find validation in this. Harriet the Spy taught you this skill and you started utilizing it in middle school. There have been many bursts of this behavior, and you never notice when you stop, but thankfully you’ve managed to stay in it for several years now. Now that you’re doing it more often, you’re able to manifest the magic feeling it gives you, relaxed and tingling simultaneously.  

You feel grateful and proud. No one will ever take this time away. Ever.

hard rain

Rain makes the studio feel cozy; it makes me feel cozy. I have a problem with the word “cozy.” I don’t understand why. Perhaps it is because sometimes when people enter into a small space, they say, “cozy” to be polite. Pink noise fills the studio. The dulled light soothes my anxiety. Sudden downpour gives me an excuse for having no plans. I need to move my cactus in before it gets drenched, again. Summer is temporarily paused. As long as it’s raining, summer can’t pressure me into socially drinking sangria until my shoulders freckle and burn. My desire to receive a text inviting me to “fun weekend plans” washes away. The rain forces me into solitude, even if the sky clears within an hour. 

Up until last week, the concept of solitude wasn’t something I was ready to embrace—the idea of being intentionally alone. Since childhood, I have hated being alone. The zombie mob in “Thriller” convinced me that the living dead would drag themselves out the woods by our house to bust through my bedroom window if I fell asleep. Being home alone or sleeping alone made me paranoid and I would panic.

I wonder if being an only child predisposed me to hate “alone.” Oddly, my imagination disregarded these fears. 

Hours in my bedroom were spend imagining my adult life as a career lady in my apartment. I was a professional ballerina, a school teacher, a spy who traveled the world. I was primatologist, a prodigy to Jane Goodall. I was a writer working on my next novel. Sometimes I had a boyfriend. Sometimes I had a class schedule. My apartment-bedroom came with a mailbox Scotch-taped outside of the door. Friends would visit my apartment, but they did not join me in playing “house” as a mother, father, baby, or dog. “House” wasn’t what I imagined for my adult life. 

The studio is my dream come true. I can be whoever I want to be here. 

The best metaphor I know about trying a new thing, or idea, is to liken it to trying on a hat.

You’re curious. You decide to try the hat on. 
- Does it fit? 
- Do you like the way it makes you feel? Does it bring you joy?
- Do you like the way it makes you look? 
- Do you like what is adds to your identity? 
- Is it the perfect style for you? 
- Is it a new style you’ve been wanting to try but until now have been too afraid? 
- Do you want to wear this hat for a week? A month? A year? 
You can choose to wear it now, and change your mind later. Nothing is permanent. If you don’t like it, take it off. No harm done. You tried something new and now you know isn’t for you.  If you like it, go with it.

Being alone wasn’t my choice, but here I am. Half living my dream and equally terrified. To control my anxiety, I must flip—perhaps trick—my mind. I will change my perspective on my situation. I will approach being alone like a new project or an experiment.  

My aim is to be more comfortable intentionally spending time alone. I want to deepen my relationship with myself. Right now, it’s unclear to me what the steps are and if there is an end goal. I’ll constantly be in progress and dwelling in self-reflection. 
 
Do I vow to stay in all day? Do I limit myself to only texting Mom to check-in? Maybe I’ll establish a “solitude Sunday” rule. The alliteration sounds like a catchy hashtag, which automatically makes me deem it invaluable. I’m already second guessing myself. Could I enjoy an entire weekend alone? I must attend my pilates classes, get iced coffee, and groceries. I’ll still want interactions with people and to spend time with friends. 

I want to commit to practicing solitude, but I need to remain flexible to my moods. Understanding and kindness toward myself will be key. I think I’ll start by claiming one weekend night for my practice.

Solitude challenges me the most between 5 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The stretch between work and a spontaneous happy-hour drink. I dread this uncomfortable hour. Since high school I’ve associated having no plans on a Friday night with having no friends. Even though this isn’t true, the insecure inner voice still encourages me to say yes to every opportunity to be out with friends. Otherwise I don’t know what to do with myself until it’s the appropriate time to order Chinese take-out. So, I tidy. I wash my mugs from last night’s tea and this morning’s coffee. I attempt to read but lose focus easily. I sit on my patio and watch my neighborhood. I refresh Instagram. I FaceTime my parents. I actively try to stop my brain from anticipating a text from a friend. 

In "Slow Days, Fast Company", Eve Babitz suggests that if you want to be invited to something, you should make yourself scrambled eggs “to show God that you are serious about staying home and being virtuous. His interest is then piqued as He seeks to devise an appropriate temptation for you to succumb to.” 

Of course, I have anxiety about my friends forgetting my existence. I imagine quietly slipping away into books, being isolated and never invited out again. Even though I’ve had this idea of practicing solitude for over a week, I’ve continued to say yes when invited and made plans. I should be confronting my discomfort with being alone. 

My cactus looks better than it has in over a year. The rain helped it look healthy again.