I Wrote This For You

So many things I should be doing, but I just want to celebrate the day.

Yesterday, I was leaving a friend after a quick fro-yo brownie work break. She stopped me, “You get down on yourself a lot and it kind of bothers me.”
I stopped my self-depreciation and paused, “Oh, really?”

She explained to me that I have a lot going for me. My educational achievements, my job, my living situation, my friends, my family. I was a little embarrassed to be called out, but also thankful, grateful.

I don’t do enough to celebrate the life I have. I don’t do enough to live it. Just live it. I’m always looking for the story, getting caught up in the twists and turns, rather than following them. Rather than waiting to see where they may lead. Rather than taking it all in stride, like that walk to Salkantay.

I stopped with a student yesterday, and she unloaded her weekend pains on me. I gave her my phone number and a hug. Don’t worry, I wanted to say. This too shall pass. Just live it. This is for you. This is yours. Own it.

Yet I can’t detach from my own.

I broke my weeknight rule last night and went to 9p trivia at my favorite Irish pub. I sat with coworkers I like, who make me shoulder-shake laugh. I got rambunctious and rowdy and only smoked 1 cigarette. I came home to bed and woke up still feeling that high. Proud of the people I know. Proud to be here. Wondering why I can’t relax and let all the days be like this. Deciding as I stood in front of the mirror and brushed my teeth that today will be a good day, regardless of my lack of sleep. Regardless of the hours ahead of me. Each hour, I will live. Each hour I will confront, face, expect.

I will make something of the day, because it is mine.

Aunt June-ism: “Tomorrow is the longest day of the week. It has to be because of the things we are going to do.”


A time I want to remember

It is Sunday. Rainy. Gray. Quiet. I am sitting at the table, completing a spreadsheet for work.
My housemate sits catty-corner to me–working on something. We are quiet, besides our thinking noises.
He stops thinking to tell me:
He was mowing the yard and found a rabbit. The rabbit was lying in the grass and began kicking its legs sporadically. He hoped it was just really sleepy, but realized it was sick and dying. He leaves it be.

He tells me this and I flex my eyebrows in sympathy for the rabbit. I ask if he put it out of its misery. No, he could tell it wouldn’t last long. He wonders aloud if it is still out there. He gets up from the table to go and check.

I follow him to the backyard. We struggle with the back door. Stupid door.
He goes back into the house for shoes. I walk barefoot along the decorative brick trim. I see something gray and spongey in the grass, along the fence, in the weeds, the vicinity where he last saw it. My housemate asks if I can see it. I tell him I’m not sure, without my glasses. He walks out to confirm–yes it’s dead.

He decides we should get rid of it. The country in me wants to leave it–to rot, to return. But I don’t know the rules of town. I follow him inside. He is grabbing trash bags. Double-bag it, he says. He asks me if I want to do it. I tell him, I can. He hands me the garbage bags and I walk out, in his shoes, to dispose of the rabbit. I grab it through the garbage bag. It is surprisingly solid, but light. I imagine the life that pumped and hummed through the small body just hours before.
I take a moment to acknowledge that life is gone, where once it was.
The eye is open. Blue, not looking, frozen and unfocused.

I wrap the small body up in the plastic. I tie it. I drop it into the garbage.

I realize, I grew up around farms. I am okay with death.

I will go back to the table and my housemate will comment that he wished he had a gun to put the rabbit out of its misery. I ask if we have a shovel. We don’t. I say a hammer would have worked as well.

We laugh a little about death and creatures and power. We go back to our respective tasks.

I will think about that small, solid body on and off for the rest of the night.

We will ponder how it died.

We will go on.

Of dreams and thoughts and stranger things

Like the gouge in the table, I cannot feel, there’s a hollow there

A smile, a wave of the arms, a sing-song voice. It calls to me. Every day. I remind myself to be still, still, still.

I remind myself to stretch, stretch out.
I remind myself to lean back. Sit straight.
I remind myself, this is temporary.
I remind myself that every day does not last all the days. One day is enough.
No more, no less.

I dreamt about a black dog. A black dog that was mine and no one else’s. A black dog that was loyal, loving, aware. A black dog that evaded me, when I wasn’t acting like myself. A black dog that would come to me, if only I turned away and trusted it would stay. A black dog that was waiting for me to relinquish my control, my authority. Trust that loyalty lives in your life. Trust that the love you have given away is enough. Enough to sustain the pressures of the day. Enough to sustain.

Be still, turn your back, it will come.

Rumi, “There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?”

Software DV

You are what you eat. I’ve known this all along, but it’s nice to see science back-up the claims of my grandmother.

The Mind-Gut Connection

I brought it up with my counselor, how food determines my day, and I’ve made adjustments to my life to make time for food, and the right kind of food. I struggle with saying no to the dark beers and the chocolate and the breads, but I try to be careful, and I know that not all the things I enjoy are terrible for me, as much as we are told that food like life is black and white is good or bad is okay or not.

Eat when you’re hungry, and you’ll be fine, was the advice my mother gave me as a child.

But truly, it was this section that popped out at me, new terminology I can use to describe my pursuits in life:

I’ve come to realize that the most important period in a person’s life to influence the gut
microbiome and the brain-gut axis is probably the first three years in life, starting with pregnancy. I always tell my patients that yes, your brain gut axis may be messed up from early on, and some of these changes you can’t erase. However, as humans, we can use the phenomenal supercomputer, our brain, to learn strategies and techniques that can put a ‘software patch’ over this messed-up early life programming. There’s a range of behavioral techniques and lifestyle changes that are able to counteract much of the early changes.

And I think about how widely applicable that statement is, “we can use the phenomenal supercomputer, our brain, to learn strategies and techniques that can put a ‘software patch’ over this messed-up early life programming.”
How our nurture is always there, but so is our nature. We can overcome. There is a balance and there is a struggle, but our brains are incredible pieces of equipment.

Sunday night football

Sunday as the summer hangs on. Sunday as the birds flock and the squirrels fight and I try to relish in the rhythm of this kind of Sunday, knowing all too well how quickly it may change.

Sunday in Green Bay is quiet and slow. These past few weeks, I have slept in late. I pull out of bed in response to my housemate’s footsteps on the stairs, or the sound of his voice, alerting me to his cooking plans. I shuffle for the kitchen to watch him make a dutch baby. I will boil water. Maybe he will offer me coffee. I will probably have tea. We will sit at the table together and scrape the crust out of the cast iron. We will make a mess. Sugar everywhere. We will crunch and think and make minor critical comments of the warm cake.

Eventually, one of us will get up to do the dishes and wipe down the kitchen. The other will stay at the table, caught up in their laptop or their reading material. Pulled away by the hum in their brain. Someone we work with will walk past along the sidewalk. They will wave at us through the big picture window. The sun will move along the sky. The dining room will get brighter, then darker.

Maybe I push away from the kitchen table to run along the river. Through the neighborhood. An attempt to sweat out whatever toxins might still be hiding in my blood. Maybe I will stand up to make my grocery list. I will pull my clothes from the washer to the dryer. I will tidy the mess in my room from the night before. I will read a page or two in my book. I will catch up on my podcasts. Maybe I will nap just to make sure I am caught up for the week. I will change my clothes and brush my hair and eventually brush the morning snacks from my teeth. I will drive to the far grocery store that is too big and too crowded because every time I go I save at least $10.00. Besides, I like seeing the other non-white people. I catch words from the kid complaining in Spanish to his mother. I try to decipher the ingredients of the coconut juice the Indian family next to me is buying. I critique the cart of the fat white man in front of me. So much sugar.

I will come home to the sun even further out over the river. Maybe the game is on. Maybe it is ending. Maybe it is not for a few more hours. It doesn’t matter. I will not watch. I pull my car into the garage for the first time all weekend. I dump my groceries in the kitchen. I am alone now, always, on Sunday afternoons. I cherish the quiet in the kitchen. I play music or continue to catch up on podcasts. I will open a beer or a bubbly water or pull from the wine bottle that is the base for my sauce. I will make a mess and clean it up again. All trace of my culinary adventures gone by the time my housemate makes it back to town.

I season and mix and saute. I dump pans into plastic tubs. I seal and arrange and ensure I have plans for the hunger I will feel throughout the week. I try not to eat everything as I stand in the kitchen. I try to think of how lazy and hungry and impatient I will feel later– once the workweek eats my days up again.

I might wander into the living room to watch a movie. I might jog up the stairs to put my laundry away. I might climb out onto the roof to watch the squirrels. To hide from the runners and the bikers and the drivers and the walkers and the kids on their bikes and the dogs on leashes. I might shower and sing and take as long as I want.

Eventually, my housemate will come home, and we might talk or we might not. He might comment on the leftover smells in the kitchen. We might sit in the living room together and find a common interest on the TV. We might sit close but apart in our neighboring rooms. We might talk through the walls or from the cracks in our doors. We might go straight to bed and not see each other in the morning. One of us leaving before the other can get downstairs.

All of a sudden it is late. Sunday is over. The cars still pass on the street. The river still gurgles along the trail. I am still here.

Compulsive heterosexuality

What if you aren’t sure if you want to continue performing the you as you always have?

Growing up, I was especially privy to male masculine identity development– even being raised by a single mother. I gravitated towards the groups of boys at school, not to be an object of their desire, but to be on their side. To be accepted in. I blame this on the latinx value of machismo. I blame this on the way I was coddled by my older male cousins and my brothers. I was accepted to the inside because I was young and precious and harmless. I used this to gain leverage with the teenage boys I later befriended.

I am harmless.

But I watched as a harmless teenage girl with a body not made for desire. I watched as boys navigated their gendered performances. I watched as they established dominance over girls’ bodies. I listened as they told their stories about what their bodies could make women’s bodies do. About the resulting grossness of women’s bodies. I watched as the bodies of my peers became masculinity resources deployed in order to help boys maintain their labels as men. As dudes. As bros. I practiced my lack of empathy with them. I helped them constitute their masculine identity by playing the game, participating in the interactions that reinforced their male egos. I helped.

I saw and laughed and feared for myself. But it did not matter. I knew their game was somehow more important than the games my female counterparts were playing. Maybe because the boys seemed to have more agency, and the girls were waiting, waiting to be chosen for the game. Maybe it was that. As simple as doing versus not doing.

I’ve always wanted to do.

I helped but I tried to save myself. I tried to separate myself from the pack of girls I saw deployed. I kept my body to myself. I kept the feminine of my self secret. Convinced that if I chose wisely, I would never be used in the masculine identity war. I could be saved.

My rational self, the self deemed acceptable by the patriarchy, kept that other part of me, the part of me that lived in fear, at bay. In public, you are fearless, rational, emotionless. At home, you are nurturing, warm, confused. You will be saved. 

So I internalized it. I internalized all that aggression men have towards women. I practiced not drawing attention to myself. I practiced monogamy and modesty. I practiced rationality and sarcasm. My emotions do not matter. I practiced. I laughed at my brothers’ possession of women’s bodies. I repeated their jokes. I joked and smirked and insulted my way into the in-male-crowd. I became something other than…or I tried to. A part of me was always aware that the boys were waiting. Waiting to take me. To win me over. Waiting to turn me against myself. To make me another pawn in their game. Or so I told myself. Always convinced I was not safe, regardless of how safe I was made to feel at times.

And now it wears on me. I am tired of constantly seeking a safe haven for me and my body. We have made it this far, somewhat unscathed. Somewhat unharmed. Our reputation mostly intact. But I still feel it come up. The cloaking device. I’ll be sitting in a bar and a man will reach out his hand to mine, “hi.” I’ll be walking with a pack of girls in heels and skirts and feel it coming off the street. That masculine gaze. That search. That seek. Power, power, power, and there it is: their eyes land on our legs, our arms, our breasts, our hair. They see it in us. The potential to dominate, to make another helpless. To touch. “The use of touch maintains a social hierarchy.”

Ugh, I feel it in my very bones. The warnings and my own inner voice, reared by that male seeking, taught by that male reinforcement. Don’t fall victim to them. Don’t fall prey to them. You know what they will say, how they will move, what they will do. Our bodies, ourselves, and we can find a safe space. But I continue to doubt that, everywhere I go. So long as there are males with eyes and hands and teeth. I am in their world. My body is their pawn. Their science experiment.

You are in my world.

And it reinforces for me again, how you can never really know someone. You can share their space and you can watch their habits play out. You can observe their flaws and human baggage. But you can never know their meaning-making. You can never really see the wheels under their performance. You can never pinpoint exactly what has given shape to their construct of self. What episodes or lessons have played out for them, what recipe they’re using or deviating from. That is how I feel. That is what I’m reminded of. This play this script.

but it doesn’t have to be this way.

What if I’m tired of performing this part with these motivations? What if I came at it from a different angle? Can you? Can you reassess something so infused with your formation?

I don’t know.

“Soldiers and women. That’s how the world is. Any other role is temporary. Any other role is a gesture.” -Jeanette Winterson



What the internet can do

“Dear Dick: every letter is a love letter.”

Dear Alaina, I didn’t move into this house expecting to feel this way = in love.

I love living here. I love walking up to the house from the sidewalk, viewing the big porch and the balcony above. I love the way it echoes and creaks. I love the smooth floors under the skin of my feet. I climb out onto the roof to eat ice cream, noting how the sun has changed angles. The leaves turn yellow in the trees. The squirrels don’t see me. I sit until I’m numb.

My housemate asks me to share a beer. He tells me the story of the elderly couple he tracked down. The ones whose yearbook he stumbled across. The one with the almost love letter written out in clever cursive. The writing of the girl to the boy. He discovered their history, their life. He finds them not too far away. He spends a few hours with them. 70 years he says they’ve been together and my chest seizes up in response to the challenge.

70 years they have been together and she misses him–a floor away in their nursing home.

I asked my housemate, “what did you learn? What are your take-aways from your adventure?”

He responded, “there are no take-aways. It just is.”

I wish I lived like that. It just is. I wish I could feel like that. But I was born under the searching star, Mrigashirsha nakshatra, and so search I always, always do.