it’s been eight weeks since you looked at me

it’s been eight weeks since you looked at me

I haven’t gone into the office since March 12. 58 days of this new way of life.

They say it only takes 21 days to form a habit. So why does all of this still feel so wrong?

I crave new experiences, and yet find myself rewatching familiar shows and movies, picking up books I’ve already read. The uncertainty of our current world is so discombobulating, confusing need and want.

There is time and there isn’t. There is quiet and there isn’t.

I have found solace in online writing workshops like Undercurrent, in the meeting of creative minds fighting to make magic out of exhausted fear and loneliness and joy in each other’s presence on a Friday night.

Where do you go when you can’t leave home?

My doctors have asked that I stay inside except for doctors’ appointments that can’t be done virtually. The combination of my conditions, plus concerns about continued mysteries around my inflammation markers, make my hematologist especially worried about my susceptibility to the virus and the complications that might come from contracting it. If I wasn’t already afraid, I definitely am now.

I try go through the day focusing on what I can control. Wake up, fix hair, eat breakfast/drink coffee, change clothes, log into work. Try to remember to take a lunch break, but often forget. After work, try to write or read or work on one of my secret projects, but if I lay in bed and watch reruns of Schitt’s Creek instead, that’s okay, too. Weekends are trickier, with all those unstructured hours, so I am trying to log into write-ins like the ones Barrelhouse is running or find other organized events that keep me focused. I schedule time with friends, if we can make it work. I let myself sleep.

Some days I am better at going with this flow than others. Some days, I lay in bed listening to true crime podcasts and feel tears pricking my eye line for hours but can’t cry, and can’t not cry, and can’t move because that might make me cry, so I do nothing except lay still and breathe and let the words wash over me as I drift off to sleep in the middle of the day.

If I have learned anything so far, it’s this:

  • I have to just keep trying new things to find what works and what doesn’t.
  • I will have bad days and I need to accept that.
  • My disabilities are not instantly better or cured by working from home—their management is just different.
  • Virtual appointments are weird for everyone, and we are all still learning how to make them work.
  • Everyone deserves grace, now more than ever, and granting it to others brings a little back to you.

I hope you are finding your way through this strange time. Share your coping strategies and fears and joys in the comments.

Announcing: Live Poetry on Instagram

Announcing: Live Poetry on Instagram

In celebration of National Poetry Month, while in keeping with social distancing, I will be performing some of my poetry for 30 minutes live on Instagram every Sunday in the month of April. You can mark yourself as “going” to the events on Facebook.

Please follow me on Instagram to be notified when I am live!

You can also watching me perform “Cross Roads” at Inner Moonlight in December:

On Audre Lorde and Self-Care

On Audre Lorde and Self-Care

I have always struggled with taking care of myself.

Not only do I put the needs of others first, I find it challenging to spend time in “treating myself” in ways that actually take care of me. It’s easier to disappear into a pile of blankets and watch The Good Place for the fifth time than it is to engage with what I actually need.

But I am learning to see self-care as Audre Lorde did – an act of self-preservation.

As a disabled person, I have to prioritize caring for myself in a way that others don’t. Doctor’s appointments ad nauseum, researching specialists and treatments, managing my many medications, tracking symptoms and possible triggers.

Respecting my limits so I can go on to fight another day.

I like to think this is the kind of political warfare Audre Lorde meant – keeping yourself alive despite the forces trying to destroy you.

‘Language Barriers’ is a Best of the Net Finalist

‘Language Barriers’ is a Best of the Net Finalist

Part of me wants to say, “I don’t know how this happened!”

But I do.

It was one too many comments in a day of exhaustive, unsolicited feedback from strangers who felt ownership over my body by virtue of its existence in their presence.

My options were to scream into the void or put words on paper. Thankfully, I did the latter.

Over months, I edited the words into a poem. I sent that poem to nearly a dozen journals before Kissing Dynamite sent me the email that changed everything.

They wanted to feature my rage in their May 2019 issue.

I provided commentary to readers. I got to tell the why and how of the words that had poured out of me that one angry day that could have been any angry day.

The feedback I received was empowering. I hadn’t felt so validated in my feelings of violation and indignation.

In September, I received an email with the subject line, “Surprise!” Inside, the KD team announced that they had nominated ‘Language Barriers’ for the Best of the Net Anthology.

To be nominated was itself an honor. It was enough.

Last week, following a string of bad news, I received another email with the subject line, “Congratulations!” Inside, the lovely Christine Taylor, EIC of KD, told me that my flicker of fury had been named a Best of the Net finalist for 2019.

This is how it happened: I turned my hurt into flame into a story. I shared that story with someone who found some beauty in it, who shared it with their corner of the world, then shared it again with an even bigger corner of the world. Someone there saw some beauty in it, too, and decided to share it even wider.

There is magic in how it happened, and something so desperately human that it can’t be named.

Thank you Christine, the KD team, the judges and readers and producers at Sundress Publications. Congratulations to my fellow finalists, the winners, and all the other digital poets just trying to make something of the everything. Keep doing.

a study in the things i need

a study in the things i need

yesterday

i’m not sure what compelled me to seek out my copy of emily dickinson’s poetry, but i couldn’t leave for work until i had it in my hands.

the front flap was tucked into the pages. i pulled it back, trying to set it right, when i noticed the signature hidden on the inside cover–my grandmother’s name in beautiful, distinctive flourish.

i don’t know how long i stood in the kitchen, fluorescent light casting blueish shadows on the floor. i don’t know how long it took the tears to form, to fall.

eighteen months ago

april in texas is a kind of first summer, wet and hot and relentless.

my mother called me on a sunday. she said my grandmother had fallen in her home and had been taken to a major hospital in a nearby city.

forty-five minutes later, i was navigating the maze of bright-light hallways and shades of antiseptic melancholy. underneath the hum of activity was the ever-present beeping of machines.

i found my way to her room. my grandfather offered me the only chair.

she seemed far away, numbed by medication and shock, but it wouldn’t last. the eight broken ribs would make themselves painfully known, throughout her body and ours.

within a few days, our extended family–my mother and her siblings and all but a handful of the grandkids–had taken over the wing. we claimed the waiting room, blankets and snacks and electronics strewn around us. we talked late into the night. we shared stories and laughed and cried when we accepted what was happening.

six months ago

how did i hear about it? an article? an ad? the trailer, maybe, on a social feed?

a film called wild nights with emily proposed a new interpretation of the emily dickinson’s letters and works–that she was in love with her brother’s wife, sue, and not at all the fearful, unrequited lover of unavailable men we’ve come to believe she was.

after a particularly challenging week of work–and while my mother lay in the same hospital her mother had died in, recovering from surgery to remove a 13cm tumor from her abdomen–i sat in a dark theater and watched molly shannon kiss susan ziegler as a narrator recited the version of the story i already knew.

molly’s emily felt more real to me than any other, this vibrant being of passion and humor and regret and sadness so deep that she didn’t know a way out. could i call her my sister then? fellow poetess with an affinity for the same kind of love?

yesterday

i shared a photo of the book with my mother. the day after chemo is usually one of her best days of the week, steroids like buoys against the grey of sick sleep.

“i must have stolen this at some point,” i said. “i want you to have it, if you want it.”

instead, she said i should keep it. maybe it was meant for me. maybe it was my grandmother’s way of letting me know that she wasn’t really gone.

i’m not sure i believe something like that can happen. more than likely, it was serendipity, or maybe the vague tugging of memory, grief leading me back in time.

however the book came back to me, i’m thankful it did–if only for the reminder of books’ magic.

I have been on the internet for too long

I have been on the internet for too long

Now that we know each other, maybe I can explain the point of this blog.

That’s a strong maybe.

I started blogging in 2002. Back then, my friends and I shared our innermost thoughts and all that hot goss—passive-aggressively, of course—on Xanga.

(Which is still around somehow? Sometimes, I feel like a digital senior citizen.)

Since then, I have created too many blogs to enumerate here—mostly because I can’t remember half of them—on Livejournal, Tumblr, Blogspot, and Medium. The one site I’ve stuck with is WordPress, and let’s face it, that’s probably my one good decision after all these years of internet citizenship.

Most of my blogs have been online diaries, a smattering of personal meandering and half-assed poetry. They haven’t had much direction other than the direction of my life which, let’s face it, isn’t as interesting as it was when I was sixteen.

(No shade on my current self; it’s just that I spend most of most days at work, which I refuse to write about, and the rest of my time resting thanks to chronic illness. Not many want to read about that, and I don’t particularly want to write about that—at least, not exclusively.)

Instead of chronicling my daily life, I want this blog to be more of a meeting place for my head and my heart. I want to deep dive into topics that interest me, like personality tests or professional wrestling. I want to share factoids about random historical figures I’ve found on one of my many Wikipedia info-lust spirals. I want to catalog the research I’m doing for the novel I’ve just started writing. I want discuss books I’m reading or movies I’m watching. I want to write about Fleabag because OMG have you watched Fleabag?

Basically, I want this blog to make me seem much more remarkable that I actually (think) I am.

I promise my next post will be less meta (read: boring). In the meantime, enjoy one of my favourite videos from YouTube’s youth:

I am an expert in starting over

I am an expert in starting over

I spent my third birthday in a hotel in Utah or Colorado, on a scenic detour from Edwards AFB in California to Lackland AFB in south Texas. I don’t remember much about this birthday, so it couldn’t have been too scarring, but I know how it sounds—lonely and sad, like I was denied something.

I assure you, I wasn’t. If anything, being a military child gave me a greater appreciation for unique experiences—and for constant change.

From San Antonio to Little Rock to Woodbridge, VA in a little more than three years. Another six homes over the next 10 years, not counting temporary housing, which became a standard step for the final four. Twice I lived with my mother’s parents for the summer. Twice we lived in temporary base housing, which is basically like living in a hotel-style apartment that you must leave in better condition than you found it, lest you incur a fee. So not like a hotel actually, but not like a home, either.

In Georgia, I remember spending a lot of time on a nearby playground, squeezing my nearly-pubescent body into spaces clearly designed for smaller children.

(I had a fascination throughout childhood with contorting myself into spaces not designed for my body, but that’s a story for another day.)

My first sixteen years were in a constant state of flux, and as a result, I mastered the art of starting over.

I did not master the art of following through.

This is not to say that I have no follow-through—I have written a couple of novels (one of which was “published”—again, later), completed graduate school, completed years-long work projects.

But follow-through is always a struggle for me. I get three-quarters of the way through something and I’m ready to move on to the next thing. I have a series of ideas all at once, and choose to binge-watch Parks & Recreation instead of working on any of them. I create blogs and YouTube channels and social media accounts, then barely use them and eventually abandon them just as they are gaining steam.

I think part of me is terrified of seeing the end of something. I watched my parents’ marriage end, and while I believe it was the best thing for our family, it was extremely difficult to be a part of. I watched my grandmothers’ lives end in rooms filled with their loved ones, and felt buoyed by that love, and was still devastated by my loss of them.

If I don’t finish my projects, commit to my blogs or channels, then I don’t have to face the other side. I don’t have to deal with edits, or critique, or failure. They can remain pristine in my vision of them, without taking a single risk to make them real.

Now I’m 30 years old and have met nearly none of my personal life goals.

This isn’t completely the fault of my routine of starting over—I have dealt with chronic illness since I was 13, and in the last three years have seen a steep decline in my health, which has forced me to rewrite the plan I had for my life—but I can’t deny that my fears have held me back to an alarming degree.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I want this time to be different.

No—this time is going to be different.

And the only way I know to start is to admit all the times I’ve failed before and promise to be different.

Which in retrospect is probably the worst way to start—look at all the times I’ve not done what I’m pledging to do this time! Who would subscribe to a blog or channel that provides evidence of its inevitable demise in the first post or video?

I hope you do.