THE OLD WOMAN AND THE OLD BICYCLE

THE OLD WOMAN AND THE OLD BICYCLE

The Old Woman And The Old Bicycle
The breeze is cold and sharp and honest on my walk without you.
Confusion wells up in my eyes
As I sit uncomfortably in the patience of universal design.
I feel lost, as I usually do right before I am found.
Cars blur past,
Some rattling with age
While others flaunt their shiny newness.
My idle hands crimp and fuss.
Absent is the hand that held them steady.
Touching my face to remember I’m here
And I’m real and I feel,
As the crisp air blowing on my sore neck wasn’t enough.
The marks of my strain and stress now visible.
Between my vacant family,
My lost husband,
My insurfuckingmountable depression,
And my god damned dead dad
I want to step in front of that shiny new car and stop it.
Stop the 30 years of abuse
Stop the nightmares
Stop the tears
Stop the loss
And stop the unheard, maddening loneliness.
I tried to call so many people and no one answered.
I’m reminded of the time I told my cousin that when no one answers
That means it’s time to call to the universe.
So I called to her.
Please guide me to joy.
Please carve a lighter path.
Please take pity on my tired and bruised body.
I’ll stay!
I’ll keep walking!
I’ll walk night and day and day and night
Just please stand beside me.
In all your warmth and rapture and rage
Show me some kindness.
Show me your mercy.
My trembling hand pulled a card from a deck earlier and it said, “Power.”
Was that meant for you?
For I cannot see mine, but yours is surely in the air.
Is mine hidden in the hand behind your back?
Or is it in my footsteps?
Maybe my legs will grow stronger with every mile.
Maybe the rhythm of my movement will steady the equilibrium of my breath.
Maybe my hands will effortlessly fall to my sides as my head dizzies with quietness.
And then, maybe, I’ll hear her.
In the lemon tree,
Or the hazy far off police sirens,
Or in the melting background hum of rush hour traffic,
Or in the soft paddle of an old bicycle wheel.
And as the street lamps flicker on,
And the dusk settles in,
And as the misty Olympic clouds blanket the Pasadena mountains, maybe,
I’ll hear her say, “take another step.”

Clever North Wind

clever north wind

Clever North Wind
The wind visited me last night,
Rustling my leaves and chilling my aching bark.
She felt cruel and unyielding at first
But softened into a wavelike drag.
Lifting the heavy parts of my old branches,
Giving relief to my sinking roots,
Raising me from my bed of dampened soil and
Gracefully uplifting my oftentimes laden and restless sagacity.
In moments of change, I weary with tiredness
Again, I must grow?
Yet, with her winds I feel her ever-love for movement
The flood of celebration and gift of newness,
A remembrance of childhood sprouting.
Almost like falling asleep,
Beginning with a slow birth
And then a sudden and complete surrender,
I am bewitched by her breeze of arriving seasons.
A wild delirium for nature’s will to be done.
Influence my stems, lead me where you need me
Raise my creaking camphorwood,
And then admire how I blossom.
For what is change without appreciation?
My sweet wind, you are the causation and
The heiress to all of springtime.
Another growth-ring appears,
A recorded reflection of age and time
To cut me in half would reveal my wisdom
But it would also unveil that I took courage from thine.

Her

her

Cry for the little girl whose mommy always cries
Cry for the little girl whose daddy is never home
Who overhears loud fighting
And crashes in the middle of the night.
Cry for the little girl who stopped getting lullabies.
Cry for the little girl who had a nightmare one night
And who crawled into her mommy and daddy’s bed for comfort.
Cry for the little girl whose daddy touched her between her legs
Cry for the little girl who didn’t want to hurt her daddy
but she was getting hurt, too
So she hit him
And hit him
And hit him.
Cry for the little girl who went back to bed
Cry for the little girl who woke up confused, wet with urine,
And no one talked to her.
Cry for the little girl who made herself believe it was just her nightmare
The nightmare that she will have for decades to come.
The nightmare that will come back
Again, and again, and again, and again.
Cry for the little girl whose mommy started drinking
Whose lungs are burning and aching with smoke.
Cry for the little girl whose sister began to get angry
Who was placed in a dryer and had it turned on
Who was locked in a meat freezer
Who was electrocuted
And drowned
And beaten with a rock
And still has all the scars to prove it.
Cry for the little girl who slept outside one night
And no one noticed she was gone.
Cry for the little girl who slept outside for three weeks
And no one noticed she was gone.
Cry for the little girl who lost her virginity
And then he broke her rib
Cry for the little girl who was spit at, beat up and locked in lockers at school
Cry for the little girl whose mother threw chairs
And thought she was branded by Satan
And choked her daughters if they got out of line.
Cry for the little girl whose father was home now but too drunk to care.
Cry for the little girl who was drugged by boys
Again, and again, and again, and again
Cry for the little girl who started fantasizing about her father
Who loathed her own sexuality and was disgusted with her skin.
Cry for the little girl who fooled around with an older boy in a hot tub
Only to realize his friends were filming nearby
And what about that boyfriend that uploaded that video
The one of her going down on him to that porn site, cry about that too.
Cry for the little girl who was called a whore, a slut, easy, a piece of pussy, trash, loose, a bitch, a cunt, and such a fucking tease.
Cry for the little girl who had six,
Or was it seven
Fraternity boys attack her, rip her clothes off and throw them out the window.
Who went back home and had no one to tell.
Cry for the little girl who was raped by the neighbor boy
And still, 13 years later can’t drive down his road.
Cry for the little girl who was brave enough to leave and never look back.
Cry for the little girl who was raped again only one month later.
Remembering his piercing cold blue eyes, but was a total stranger.
Cry for the little girl whose doctor came in without gloves and forced himself inside her
Cry for the little girl whose masseuse went too high up her thigh
And wouldn’t stop, even when she cried.
Cry for the little girl who was assaulted three more times.
But can’t remember.
A silhouette of a person, an outline, a negative space cut out from reality.
Cry for the little girl whose memories began to evaporate from time
Cry for the little girl who was convinced by an older man that he could save her
Who just wanted to play with her
Who just wanted to use her, abuse her, degrade her, defile her, torture her and scar her
Again, and again, and again, and again
Cry for the little girl who was brave enough to leave and never look back.
Cry for the little girl who sought recovery.
Who faced her suicidal tendencies,
And her instincts to hurt and to hate.
Cry for the little girl who finally found her voice.
Once meager and weak
But now she could speak,
What a beautiful sound.
Cry for the little girl who learned about trust.
Not just in others, or herself, but in all of us.
Cry for the little girl who wanted her family again
And realized they were in more pain than her
So she cried for them.
Cry for the little girl who learned about love.
For the first time, feeling genuine care.
For being fearful of what she owed in return,
Realizing love is not a debt.
Cry for the little girl who learned how to make love.
With her spirit, her mind, her conscious body and her ever-grateful heart.
Cry for her joy, her returning childlike wonder, her intrigue with life.
Cry for her rejuvenation,
Her renewed sense of innocence
And Her resurrection.
Cry for the little girl that learned how to forgive.
Who prayed and cried for those who hurt her
For seeing clearly their pain like mountains over Her calm valley of water.
And once the tears have fallen, once they have rained into Her river
Watch them drift back to the sea
The vast horizon that is Her love
Not just for you, but for everybody.
Do not cry for the little girl, not anymore.
She does not want your tears.
This little girl has now lived for many years.
Cry for the sick, the disturbed, the tormented and weak.
Cry for their souls some refuge to seek.
Cry for their reflection, their need to introspect.
Cry for their lack of empathy and their inability to connect.
Cry for their healing, their cold and confused hearts.
Cry for our sake, for without their health we’ll all be pulled apart.
Our people are a hurting one, place your weapons down.
Speak up, trust, love
Only Her peace will be found.

No

NO

PREFACE: I used to think it was important to only share recovery, and on that same wavelength, I used to think only love poems were the kinds that were important to share.  Today, I am reminded of the process and how I had to hear experience, then strength and hope in order to heal.  Knowing that you’re not alone is key to releasing the power that traumatic experiences have on the mental, emotional and spiritual states of the person who has been disturbed.  I am reminded that both light and dark exist together.  The following might be triggering for some assault/rape survivors.

My dream last night was about James.  He was the sweet neighbor boy who lived around the corner from my house growing up. We would ride our bikes around the dirt roads together.  One day he “forgot” his bike, so we had to walk, and he grabbed my hand and held it all afternoon.  We would go swimming in ponds and pick blackberries and on one evening, he gave me my first real kiss when I was 13 in the back of my mom’s car.

I remember wearing his football jersey to school on a Friday to support him for the game that evening.  Feeling important and trusted, I wore it like a badge of my status, popularity and commitment to my new and first boyfriend.  After the game, he kissed me again, this time in front of his friends.  I was amazed at his confidence and bravery in liking me.  He was a year older at 14, and fellow friends envied that an older boy was dating me. It gave me this image of “maturity” where locker room girls asked for dating advice.

James and I didn’t date long, however, age differences at that time of puberty made a big difference.  Girls at 14 were starting to make-out with boys, get felt-up, even play below the belt.  But I wasn’t ready.  Nervous to even french kiss him, that didn’t seem to be enough for his current appetite.  However, we remained friends all throughout junior high and into high school.

We went to parties together often, although he typically would socialize with the more popular, athletic crowd.  Whereas, my group was a little more rough around the edges.  He was never judgmental, though.  When I wore too much makeup, or a shirt too low, or when rumors began to spread of my sexual conquests (apparently I slept with an entire football team at another school and got 7 abortions one summer), he remained my friend.

I often thought he was one of the kindest, truest men I had ever met.  I trusted him wholeheartedly and even thought that one day we might end up together when life balanced out a bit.  I could see us on the farm raising a bunch of babies, working the soil and having too many animals. He loved dogs and I loved pigs and we both already had at least 5 cats between us.

Within a single evening, those tender daydreams turned into rocks that were thrown into my perception and shattered my reality.  Parts of me broke all while I slept.  At 17, he raped me in his dorm room when I was unconscious. The once sweet boy who I shared so many memories with became a horrible nightmare for 13 years to come.

I got very drunk at a party one night. I knew I had overdone it and was worried about my safety.  As a smart girl, I knew that boys could take advantage, so I called James to come get me since he lived in a dormitory nearby.  It was no secret that I was fall-over drunk. I was young, still trying to figure out my limits with alcohol and as some children from disturbed childhoods do, I was self-medicating. Even as I write this, I find myself justifying.

I don’t remember much after returning to his dorm room.  Just laying in his bed and trying to fall asleep, my shirt coming off and telling him I was cold.

I woke up the next morning completely naked beside him. Confused, embarrassed and sore. I got dressed and left knowing that I didn’t want to have sex with him, but I had, or he had with me. Feeling like it was my fault – for years to come. Scared if he had or hadn’t used protection.  (He hadn’t). If only I hadn’t drank so much.  If only I could remember what happened.  If only I was awake long enough to tell him no.  If only…

I drove home missing a part of myself.  I drove home never wanting to see myself naked again.  I drove home with my skin tensing with disgust and anger.  I drove home to a place where I was not safe to tell anyone about what had happened.  I drove home in silence and alone.  I drove home looking at a sunrise and feeling like nothing would ever look beautiful again.  I drove home empty and numb.  I drove home passing his house.  I drove home.

That night, I was given three things: an inability to get close or trust men for nearly a decade, a tendency to disassociate with myself that spawned many more years of abuse, and I was given chlamydia. Which my parents nearly disowned me over.  (Back then parents were notified of sexually transmitted diseases if the child was under the age of 18.) Fortunately, one of those things was treatable with a tiny little pill.  Unfortunately, everything else wasn’t that easy to overcome.

I wrote a poem that day, it later won some prestigious thing that’s not even worth mentioning – but here it is.  A poem I haven’t read in 13 years that all of a sudden today, on the eve of 2018, somehow feels important:

No
Hold my heart out on my sleeve,
Take a breath and watch me leave,
Caught in passion that I didn’t want,
Act as if you’re nonchalant.
One can’t be after such an assault.
The heart is in remorse and life comes to a halt.
Hide my tears and never tell a soul,
My body is numb and my love is cold.
Never regain consciousness from this perdition I’ve been placed.
My life is over.
I’ve been erased.
Not so fast, this isn’t my fault.
Don’t ask why, one could never understand,
Why this man could have laid his hand,
His hand upon myself in an outraged way.
Don’t ask why, for on that day,
You will take your life away.

 

Loneliness Is Just A Label

LONELINESS IS JUST A LABEL

Meditating last night, I found myself chanting “sit” on repeat.  Going through my mala beads at least twice, maybe three times consistently reminding myself to “sit.”

“Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit, sit..”  and so it went.

Having been born in a house of chaos, it’s been challenging for most of my adult life to sit still in times of uneasy emotional circumstances. Instinct tells me to run away from the feelings, either by moving to another apartment, city or even state.  Instinct also tells me to lose all the friendships I’ve made, destroy or abandon them all and start anew.  It’s fear-based, it’s fear that people are getting too close, it’s fear that tells me to run.

I’ve moved 20 times in the last 12 years because of this flight-based instinct.  I have recreated my life and developed new friendships more than I can count.  Only showing people what I want to show them and leaving the rest as the past, fearing judgment, criticism or inability to relate.

Sitting in uncomfortable moments where our anxiety is high, our emotions are abusively loud and our hearts are aching, are signs of true growth.  If I can sit quietly with my pain long enough, I can uncover the root of the disturbance.  In this circumstance, like most children of alcoholics, my root was and usually is, loneliness.

I was alone in my childhood.  My dad traveled 90% of the time. He was home for maybe 1 weekend a month for 15 years.  When he was home, he was devastatingly drunk.  To put this into perspective, my dad usually drank about a half gallon of vodka a night.  So when I say he was drunk, I mean he was terribly drunk.  That led to fights, slurs, stumbles, accidents, hurt and eventually him passing out with a lit cigarette in his hand – to which I often put out at the end of the night when I heard it was finally quiet, and safe.

My mom started out as a very loving and doting mother.  But, from the years of isolation and an inability to self-reflect or grow on her own, she too began to drink as a coping mechanism.  Alcoholism ran in her family as well so it came as no surprise why she married a drunk or why she herself found it easy to treat her symptoms with alcohol.  However, that left my sister and I very much alone.

I responded to this by becoming a classic internalizer.  I felt so much of the responsibility in my household that when problems arose, I turned the blame on myself and wanted to mediate the entire family until there was peace again.  Which, there could never be because alcoholism doesn’t allow that.  I often found myself depressed, anxious and drained by the internal voice in my head constantly criticizing and accusing me of things I’d never really done.

Because of this internal monologue, I decided it was probably better for me to just live in the woods, so that’s what I did.  I retreated inward, into my dark cave of anger, confusion, hormones, self-hatred and dying light of childhood and went into the woods.  I slept under the stars, exhaled the sunrise, listened to fawns gingerly walking towards me on the ever-so-loud crunchy autumn leaves.  And in this solicitude, I started to find some semblance of peace.  But, I also found loneliness.

It took me another 10 years to figure out how to quiet my mind, sync in with myself and my world and my love and realize that I’m never alone.  It took me 10 painstaking years of dating, promiscuity, drinking, drugs, depression, anger, boxing and eventually deep-healing for me to fill that often-referred-to as “God-sized” hole inside of myself.

Now, when I hear myself chanting “sit,” I remember that fawn walking on those leaves.  I see the slideshow of grief and moves and echoes of myself – and they all remind me that I am here, I am whole, I am worthy and I am forever surrounded by love because I am love.  Fear was only a self-induced mechanism to aid in my survival.  Loneliness was just another label for something I didn’t understand, which was quiet.

“Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit, sit..”  and so it goes.

It’s Not Purpose – It’s Important Life’s Work

IT'S NOT PURPOSE - IT'S IMPORTANT LIFE'S WORK

To friends that are close with me, I say that my purpose in this life is unconditional love.  But that statement is such a short cliff note of what I truly mean.  First of all, I think saying that I have a purpose is like saying a single ant’s purpose is to build a colony for it’s queen.  When from a grander perspective, ants as a whole, aerate the soil so water and nutrients can flow directly to plant roots, they serve as food for birds and lizards, and they distribute seeds by storing them in their tunnels.

I don’t know what my humanly purpose is much like an ant doesn’t know what his ant-ly purpose is.  However, I do think what I choose to focus on here is important and my focus is unconditional love.

Nine years ago, when I realized that I wouldn’t make the kind of money I needed as a photojournalist, I was heartbroken.  I had $23,000+ in student loan debt and I lived in California, one of the most expensive states in the U.S..  I didn’t want to move back home and I was freelancing for (sometimes) 90 hours a week to pay my bills.  I lived comfortably, which was a step up from being homeless.  Something I also experienced for a month straight out of college.  I was grateful for the roof, the food, the work – but I was also alone in my apartment every single day for a year.

After I ‘gave up my dream of becoming a photojournalist,’ I realized that I could look at things in three different ways:

  1. That I gave up my ‘dreams’ and my ‘purpose’ and I sold out.
  2. That I chose a career that provided me financial security, while I could still pursue my passions in life: photography & journalism.
  3. That I can dream, that I can envision a pursuit for my life. Acknowledge that gift, and realize I can do anything else I want and it can change at any time.

I chose the third. (And a little bit of the second).  Once I realized that my career, and my financial well-being were not determining who I was or what I wanted to represent, that freed me up to dream even bigger.  And believe me, as someone who has spent 9 years dedicating her life to unconditional love – this is the biggest thing I can think of still to this day.  And that brings me to my next point.  What’s so important about unconditional love?

The reason why I chose this as my study and my important life’s work is to receive an endless and infinite answer. Love, time, and the universe are pretty much all I think about.  They’re definitely all I write about and my poetry can’t seem to find anything else to grip on to.  I tried writing a poem about a day in the life of my cat and that turned into a love poem too.

Unconditional love is a daily practice.  I have to give it to myself, try to receive it from the world, bestow it to others – even to people that I may be mad at for not using their blinker.  Seriously though, it’s so easy, I just don’t understand.

Sometimes unconditional love means boundaries.  Sometimes it means ending a really loving, authentic and genuinely happy relationship because you know you aren’t right for each other and you’re enabling your partner.  Sometimes it means saying goodbye to your dad every day so you can love yourself and heal. Sometimes it means ending friendships because they aren’t healthy for you.  Sometimes it means being honest and admitting something you don’t like about yourself. Sometimes it means putting your cat to sleep because she has diabetes and is about to go unconscious into a coma.

Sometimes you have to receive it, even if you don’t feel worthy.  Sometimes it feels too beautiful and too good to be given to you.  But sometimes, it’s easy though, too.  It’s all around and ready to be felt and absorbed and accepted and then churned inside of you to be handed over like a gift to passersby.  It’s in the sound of the wind, the dancing fall of the yellow leaf, the mother gently caressing the soft cheek of her young baby and the woman pushing her elderly dog in a stroller.

Sometimes unconditional love is selflessness, and other times it’s compassion.  Every day it reveals itself in a new, beautiful and expansive form.  Every day I learn something new about people, about myself and about my important life’s work. One day I will even figure out the words to describe what I’ve learned.  Until then, I’ll just write love poems.

Unconditional
You are the first name I hear upon waking,
The wind dancing in my hair.
When the sun turns gold
And the light feels old,
I hear you once more.

 

Grieving with Gratitude

GRIEVING WITH GRATITUDE

I miss my dad so much right now.  Today it’s been exactly one month since his passing.  I miss so many things and it all floods into my awareness at the same time.  I miss his voice, and the way he said, “I love you.”  The other day I recalled how my dad would congratulate me for doing something good at work.  He used to always say, “You’re kickin’ ass and takin’ names, sweetie.”  Tonight, I miss how he would tell me everything was going to be okay and that he knew I’d figure it out because he raised a strong young woman.  I miss his confidence in me.

We only really got to know one another over the last 8 years and that time together meant so much to me, especially now in retrospect. I remember that evening so well.  I was standing out on our back porch by the pine tree that sits outside of my window.  It was summer, one of the last summers I spent with my family in Michigan. The sky was glowing lava red with splashes of blood orange and yellow.  I miss those summer sunsets.

My dad walked out, cocktail in hand.  At the time, his cocktail of choice was a large glass of vodka with about a teaspoon of club soda and grapefruit juice.  He walked right up next to me, stood silently for a few minutes and then very clearly asked if I thought he was an alcoholic.  I said, “I can’t answer that for you, Dad.  Do you think you have a problem with drinking?”  He said “no,” with a sweetness that came across as quite genuine.  I said, “Well then, turns out you’re not an alcoholic.”

He then proceeded to apologize for not being a very good dad but that he’d like the opportunity to try.  I told him I’d really like that.  That all I wanted was for him to be interested in my life, and to participate in my life with me.  The sunset faded to a haze of purple and pink, and from that day on, my dad was more present with me than he ever had been.  He asked me questions about work, my friends, my boyfriends and never gave me suggestions unless I asked.  He was a very good dad.

Alcohol, poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking is what inevitably killed my father at the young and abrupt age of 66.  He had advanced cardiovascular disease that went undiagnosed and his body just shut down.  I do believe my dad drank too much, and I believe it was an old and bad coping mechanism.  I think he did it to relieve stress, to not feel, to entertain himself, to numb his boredom, to forget even.  Because of some of the tragic things that happened throughout my childhood, I think he bore a lot of guilt and shame. And unfortunately, he was not willing to confront those demons.

I’m grateful I said everything I wanted to say to him.  I’m grateful I had the courage to heal myself, confront my own resentments and hurts and then love my dad wholeheartedly for 8 years.  I’m grateful that I was able to enjoy his company, his humor, his mocking my “libralism.”  I’m grateful that he put in the effort, something I noticed every single day.  And just two days before he passed, he left me what might have been his first voicemail ever, where he congratulated me on my new apartment and how everything was going well over there.  He called me sweetie one last time.  He said I love you one last time. I’m so grateful for all of that.

There is a special bond between a parent and their child.  If you currently have an estranged or messy relationship with one or both of  your parents, but hope in your heart that you can somehow make it fruitful, I would like to stand up and say that it is possible. I worked tirelessly at reestablishing my relationship with my father and I was able to.  And then, I was able to enjoy him for the remainder of his years.  A gift I wish I could give everyone.

Gratitude for the shiny moments you get with someone truly special is what turns grief into happy remembrance.