Tell me the truth

When I’m home it’s, “you got any coffee?” When I’m home it’s “do you like it up there?” When I’m home it’s endless questions and determinations of good and bad or right and wrong or ugly and pretty. People trying to make sense of the world they’ve never fully been lost in. I think it would be nice to live in their bubble; their safe, happy bubble where the world can easily be detected. Where it is easily mapped out–good, bad, confusing, worthwhile, trash, impressive, something. And the things that don’t make sense have a home in the nonsense pile, and the things that change have a place in the things change pile. Sometimes wouldn’t it be simpler to be more like that? To not have a critical thought about every word that comes out of your mouth?

The Truth, where is it? It’s not in the cups of coffee we drink and it’s not in the scratchy voices of my brothers. Sometimes I think it’s in the palms of the hands of my nephew. So tiny he can only grip the girth of my thumbs with his whole hand.

My mother wants the truth to be in our success. In our well-being. My brother wants the truth to be in nice things. In the watch gripping my sister’s wrist, in the sunglasses on the bridge of our baby brother’s nose. In the frame on the wall. My uncle wants to find truth in the order of the world. In the way we live and work. My cousin wants the truth to live in authority. In his dad, in the cops, in his girlfriend’s bossy demeanor–in me, sometimes. Me, who goes cross-eyed in my attempt to explain why the Truth cannot be had.

Where will the truth be when I wake up in the morning? It’s elusive like the winter sun. Sometimes there and bright and blinding. Sometimes angled and orange and away from me.

You grow up knowing how easily the truth can be shaped. My word against yours, “tattle-tale.” We grew up in puddles of truth. Veils.

How do I tell them, the truth is in the dirt in the bed. The truth is in my sister’s boyfriend’s felony charge. The truth is in the baby’s red angry rash in the crevice of his neck. The truth is in the sharply dyed hair of my brother’s girlfriend. The truth is in the empty shed of my cousin’s new home. The truth is in the apple tree that was torn down years ago and the pond that is so shallow a four-wheeler can drive across the center. The truth is in the decrepit. In the weathering away of the future that once was.

 

We lose our perspective in the sadness, I think. Instead of being sad, we should focus more on being resounding. On creating a resonating feeling that’s not sadness– as the only way to stay afloat in the wetness. I think also we focus too much on Truth. This Truth, we have to forget it. We have to reconcile with the fact that Truth for everyone is Truth truth. That there is no Truth, only truth, and that everyone is trying to live their own truth (T), and forget the rest. Forget trying to achieve the rest because there are too many truths (T) to combine and make into anything else. Too much pressure to achieve the Truth, rather than making the most of our truth and using that truth to help others make the most of their truth.

When I say tell me the truth, I used to mean Truth, but what I mean is tell me how you’ve seen it. Because I realize now, I’ve been the only one to see it.

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humbug

Oh, the unspeakable things. Christmas is hard cause I’m not a gift giver. Or receiver. My colleague is going to be gone for over a month and she gave me a “I’m sorry I’m going away, here-I’ll be thinking of you” gift. She presented it to me and the first words out of my mouth were, “you’re re-gifting this.” It was a red mug with a tight white knitted sweater I had seen on her desk about a month before. She had mentioned in passing that it was a gift from so-and-so and that she would re-gift it. I thought of my mother’s voice and was momentarily ashamed for my lack of grace. “But it is a nice mug,” I tried again.

Even when someone goes out of their way to do something really generous, really thoughtful, really nice for me, sure my chest wells up with that “wow, you think that much of me; I’m not worthy” reaction, but then…well, then it passes and I forget. I don’t carry around a ledger of you-gave I-give accounts. Maybe I should. Maybe my worth as a friend as a person would increase. Birthdays come and go. Sometimes I can muster a card or a beer or an outward gesture of remarkable-ness. Christmas I can never escape, although I resist I’m only left with this incredible urge to runrunrun, but I don’t. I staystaystay and hold my breath and hope that this year will be better than all the years.  I once had a friend whose family didn’t care about Christmas and they didn’t celebrate it and I remember hearing about this and feeling a rush of joy and wishful thinking and hope. Can I be in your family? For the days to pass unnoticed–what a luxury.

What are we even celebrating?

Clicking

I write because “I’m always considering you.” I write because “Can I fucking live?” – Jia Tolentino

I write because my sense of control loosens with each passing day. I write because I feel like a shattered windowpane. You run your fingers over the splintered glass and wonder at how it can stay intact. How all the bits and pieces don’t fall to the ground and scatter. I tell myself to focus in so hard on it that everything else fades out. I tell myself that we create our own realities and right now this is it.

Claire Vaye Watkins says, ‘hide me under your invisible cloak of white privilege’

I say, hide me under your invisible cloak of ___ privilege. Male, socioeconomic. Isn’t that why I do the things I did, now, then, as an adolescent? So cognizant always of the cloak. If I don’t talk nice or smile nice or do the good girl things– then don’t you have to treat me like everyone else? Doesn’t the veil, the cloak, the bullshit have to drop?

These categories–writer or student, writer or girl…matter. ‘Words matter.’ They affect the way we live–whether we can smoke a joint beside a hotel pool in New Mexico without fear of being arrested; whether someone will hear no when we say it–and they affect the way we write. -Claire Vaye Watkins

I wrote this for you. Because I already know, but until I can put it into words, does it matter? If I can’t name the experience, does it count? Was it real?

but my problem is with the telling it, I’ve set a trap for myself.

Let us hear the stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves. Let us remember that we become the stories we tell. -Claire Vaye Watkins

And I’ve always known this. I don’t remember which author I read that turned me onto this, whether it was Didion or Dillard or just a combination of titles and words and ideas I jumbled together. I sliced and rearranged to create the sentiment. I don’t want to get lost in the hair of the glass. I don’t want to lose myself in the very telling of myself. This does not help with the defying of the categorizations. This builds new ones, ones I am not allowed to name. I’m trapping myself in walls I cannot see. I am the dog running near but not over the invisible fence.

When your art is made of yourself, how do you keep yourself from being made of your art? Despite this, I know I need the telling of it.

I think you should read this:

The unconscious agenda dictated by the internet is to value only what speaks to us directly, to approve only of what corroborates our ideals; to never upset people, to write for approval; to create an identity based on who offends you; to govern your conduct with the goal of being admired. This passes, remarkably, as what’s good for feminism. I can’t imagine anything worse.

No Offense at Jezebel: http://jezebel.com/no-offense-1749221642

Under the mulberry tree 

The first time I smoked pot I was 12. I had been that kid in DARE, wide-eyed and receptive. I ran home to shame my mom for her cigarettes, my stepdad for his beer, my father for his marijuana. I was good and they were bad. The first time I got high I was 12. I had already lied to my parents, already smoked a cigarette (multiple), already kissed a boy. I had always been, up until 11, the Responsible One. I was the oldest. I was the girl. I got mostly As in school and had mostly perfect attendance and wanted my teachers to like me. Up until then.  In 5th grade, something changed. My teachers were dicks. I got sick and missed a bunch of school and my teacher noted on my report card, frequently absent. Like I was some kind of delinquent. Looking back, that was the first crack in the wall. The first pull. 

Sixth grade, and there was this new girl. Isn’t that how all the best stories begin? She had big bushy blonde hair. Mostly blonde. Sections of it were pink, green, dyed with Kool-Aid, it changed a lot. I don’t know how we even got to talking, how we even decided we had enough in common to become friends. I didn’t know much about her, other than that she came from nowhere and seemed to have nothing and hung out at an 8th grade boy’s house a lot. One day we were walking from the diner to volleyball practice at the grade school and she asked me if I wanted a drag of her cigarette and in that moment I wasn’t the girl who bitched at my mom every time her cigarette smoke entered the 5ft radius of where I was sitting. I was me. In the street with a couple of girls on my volleyball team. Fed up. I took a drag of the cigarette. The gates opened. 

The first time I smoked pot, was with this same girl. Our friendship had stretched over to 7th grade, to the high school, to the arcade where we snuck out back with our guy friends. Smoking pot for the first time wasn’t like smoking a cigarette. It was More. I knew this would brand me different from the girls I started with on the volleyball team, from the girls I sometimes sat with in the gym who were starting to get the attention of the high school boys, from the girls who were on the honor roll with me. Inhaling the pot burned the back of my throat. The smell and the subsequent taste were pungent. It was dark and lovely outside and the friends I was with laughed at my cough and my expression. Later we ate hot pockets and I almost started to cry as I stood inside playing Mortal Kombat. 

“I can’t feel my legs. They’re not there.”

 “Yes, they are. Calm down.” 

Smoking cigarettes was one thing, as almost everyone I grew up with smoked for a minute at some point in our high school career. Most of the boys would turn it into a habit that fit their farming, four-wheeler riding, baseball cap gripping personas. But pot was something else. Pot was my golden ticket to the other side. To the dark side. To getting noticed for the wrong things. To confounding my parents and teachers and peers. But you get good grades. But you want to go to college. A pot smoking teenager did not Go Places in the eyes of my town. A pot smoking teenager was headed for something worse. 

It’s true, most, all of the crowd I smoked pot with as a junior-higher ended up in jail for meth later. All of them bear Facebook profile pictures with pockmarked faces and teeth that are forever damaged and a weight which seems either too high or too low for their body shape as I remember it. I never went that far, and I knew with that first hit that I never would. But at the time, no one believed me. No one ever trusted me, which is why I started smoking in the first place. I felt like it was just a matter of time. Everyone was just watching and waiting on me to screw up. To misstep. To Fuck Up. If this is the worst you can imagine then what happens when I become that person? Then you have to let go of me. Then you’re done worrying. I’ve taken your power from you. 

One night we smoked and climbed a tree and lay in the grass in a body pile before eating ice cream. One night we ate candy in the woods and lit a fire and tried not to fall asleep under the moon. One night we made pavement angels in the street. One night we ran the bases at the little league diamond. 

I mostly stopped with the pot in high school. College became my focus. Grades and money and shit to put on my resume overpowered my interest in delinquency. In exemplifying my lack of fucks. Whatever I had to do to achieve Escape. 

But in college, my ability to light a hitter or breathe in from a bong would make me friends at parties, give me something to talk about with that guy in my lit theory class. It was my golden ticket that despite my paper grade and my comments or my demeanor in class that I wasn’t a straight and narrow. That I had a bit of personality, a bit of complexity, that there was more to me. Everyone could chug a beer, but pot was something else. So many people would comment on my interest in smoking. So often, “oh I just figured, I just thought, you didn’t seem like, that’s cool.”

Yeah yeah, I get it. 

I got out, further, and have since smoked with PhD students from rich families, with well-known artists, with career-driven women with Masters degrees, with parents in their well-manicured backyards.

Real losers of society, you know.  It kills me, sometimes, how some people are so tied to their stereotypes, their judgments, their assumptions. It’s all so relative. The world does not exist as you have organized it in your mind. That’s been my favorite part of my life…flipping people’s expectations. Giving them something to question. Surprising them. Making them uncomfortable. You’re not in a safe space. What will you do now? 

be like you

an essay on self-sufficiency

I spend so much time alone that when I’m actually with people, I find that I’m out of practice. How do I tell a funny story? How do I make a I’m listening and interested face? How do I connect your words to your perspective and your context and think my own thoughts at the same time? Why do you use that inflection and that tone and phrase your words that way? Language.

“You know nothing,” seems accurate
And I had this really interesting conversation with a colleague today that sparked something in my chest. We were discussing an interview she read with Will Smith about that new football concussion movie he’s in. Uncle Tom’s Cabin for the NFL. And I guess he shadowed the doctor he portrays in the film. During an autopsy, he noticed the woman on the table had a new tattoo, so fresh it still had its bandage. And how that struck Mr. Smith, as he realized she didn’t expect to die. She expected to live. And I felt my eyes widen with the thought. Tattoos are forever. How long will our forever be? And my colleague said, “so who was that tattoo for? It wasn’t for her. Maybe it was for Will Smith.” And I said, but how do you know when what you’re doing is for yourself or for someone else? And she said, “if you assume that what you’re doing is for someone else, you’re probably better off. That’s probably safe.” But I said, well, but what then if you miss out on something really important because you just assume it’s for someone else?

This I will have to return to.

It’s that quiet, dead time of the year and everyone wears it. I don’t even have to try as hard as usual because no one else is trying so the discrepancy between us isn’t so noticeable. I keep asking, somewhat facetiously, what everyone’s new year resolutions are. Facetiously because I a) don’t make a new year resolution and b) don’t really care.

I just have a hard time saying what I shouldn’t. When I know what I want and I know what I think I have a hard time not. The best way to not is to not. But then what’s the point? I have all the time in the world to not. I spend the majority of my time not. And when you invest so much time objectively studying yourself, when the time comes, you’re usually right.

But I listen to the resolutions around me and I feel myself float away in the moment. They are typical: “lose weight”; “be happy”

It’s a whole new year, 365 additional days, and this is all you can think of? Come on. 

“We are all shapeshifters.” I have a hard time separating my expectations from the person in front of me. I have a hard time separating someone’s potential with their reality. I have a hard time not believing in someone, and this often comes off as…I display it as…snobbery, disdain, disinterest.

Why are you wasting your time with this? You are better than this. This doesn’t matter. You deserve so much more. Is what I think, but not how I say.

I was raised very much with “figure it out” and “nobody cares”; and I find this being my default attitude. My default response. I lack in the context though, and this is where people fill up the gaps with negativity or…fear, I guess. Most often, fear. They fear my opinion. They fear my reaction. They fear ____.

Figure it out because you are fully capable of doing so.
Nobody cares but you don’t need them to. Your cares are the only cares that matter. Maybe it’s wrong…selfish…conceited, but I feel like I’m over here: trying, working, doing my best to be my best, and everyone else is half-assing it and wants me to forgive them for it. No. Pull your own weight, so we can be awesome together. I want to surround myself with awesome.

I lose people in my love for them because I want them to be their best self, and when they fail I get tired of waiting and I leave. Settle, go ahead. But I think I have a right as a fan of you to say, I’m disappointed. You know there is some truth in it. I’ve sprung free from your heart-shaped box.

Shovel

I have to take a deep breath because I feel it try to settle under the skin. They don’t say it outright but the context is there: 

Take care of this. Fix this. 

I shake it out. I try to keep my pulse steady, try to keep the river of blood calm. Try to keep my vision clear. That anger never got me anywhere and that’s why I stopped relying on it. But oh how it lies in wait. Like the beast you scared off to the high caves. Not afraid but just plotting and planning its perfect revenge. 

I am not vengeful. I have moved on. I buried that axe and lost the map. Burned down the olive tree after I snapped off all the branches. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. 

I don’t fix things anymore. If they break I leave them broken. If they start to strain under the weight I watch without worry. Not me. My license expired; I changed my name; forgot the handiwork. The muscle memory has faded. I’m rarely even tempted to flex what used to be. Sometimes it seems I’m too young to have lived all these lives. Worn all these masks. Been all these fools. 

You have to let it in. And then you have to take it out. You walk it out as far as you can. Away from the yard. Into the trees. You set it up. You hold it still. Then you dig the grave.