• Essays

    sorrow and solitude

    I felt no need to speak to anyone ever again. It was enough to stay inside, to read his notebooks and look through his drawings, and to write down everything I could remember about our time together.
    —Richard Powers, Bewilderment

    Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
    —Rachel Carson (quote found at the beginning of Bewilderment)

    It’s been several months since I last sent out one of these newsletters. I’ve been dying to write again, but lots of “big stuff” has happened lately. They kept piling up, making me feel more and more hesitant to share.

    I seem to have an aversion to laying heavy news on people, yet I find it impossible to speak when I can’t be completely honest.

    Hence, the silence.

    But I hate not writing. I love this newsletter and what it could transform into too much to let it rot away from misuse. So it’s time to rip the bandaid off.

    In July 2021 I discovered I was on the spectrum with autism. In September 2021 my sweet little brother Zach left this earth. In November 2021 my dear friend and writing accountability partner of seven years, Dylan, was crushed by a semi truck and had to be revived back to life at the scene.

    The world as I’ve known it has shattered.

    It probably seems overwhelming and callous to lump these three things together, to bullet list them, to not even give them their own paragraph. Of course they deserve more attention than these short sentences.

    But it’ll take me months and months to slowly work and write through these things properly, find the right words, the memories, the emotions—and I don’t want to be silent in the meantime.

    Although, I have been increasingly silent “locally.” Avoided the people I know in town, stopped reaching out to my long distance friends as much, even got ghosted by someone I had a mad crush on and felt relieved. Being a recluse feels comfortable.

    Some people assumed I’d fall into a deep depression following my little brother’s death. I can’t even talk to the one friend I had who actually knew him and had memories of him—because it’s Dylan, the friend who was severely injured by the semi truck and is hospitalized and on a ventilator. I had another friend who knew my brother—my brother was actually friends with him first—but he’s the guy I was “talking to” and got ghosted by. I miss talking to all three of these guys, mostly Zach. There’s been a lot of silence.

    But I’m not depressed, even though I’m dealing with several traumatic events, even though my instinct has been to isolate. In fact, I feel more filled with life than I ever have before. Death puts life into stark contrast.

    I’ve been avoiding people, not because I’m overwhelmed by tragedy and pain, not because I find death too tricky a topic to navigate in conversations—but because I feel like I’m changing too rapidly.

    I feel myself changing in like an all-encompassing DNA kind of way. I’ve become extremely sensitive to alcohol, that favored social lubricant. Even the smallest mildest glass gives me a wicked headache and stomachache. I’ve fallen out of resonance with most, if not all, my friends. Not that they did anything wrong or I love them any less, but I feel more and more restricted by verbal conversations, by social excursions. I’m at a loss for words most of the time, or my voice is trembling trying to express this new growth inside me. Or I find my vision blurring and my ability to focus on the conversation completely non-existent, I stare off into space more and more when I’m around people. The normal foods I used to eat don’t feel right anymore. I can hardly listen to music or watch any media. Leaving my house has become exhausting.

    I realize those sound like a cocktail of trauma responses.

    But I know that’s not what’s happening. At the risk of sounding “extra,” I just have a deep knowing that all of this means I’m evolving into the person I’m supposed to be. Like full blown metamorphosis, melting into goo inside my cocoon and turning into a different creature—one that was already inside of me from conception.

    I’ve been writing like a mad woman and I can’t keep up with myself. Pages and pages are filled each day, ideas are implemented, problems are solved, creativity is bursting.

    And it is from reclusively and solitude, listening, feeling, writing, that I experience my deepest joy and contentment.

    Last summer I sent out a newsletter called “my Emily Dickinson year” but it feels like that sentiment has expanded and amplified into “my Emily Dickinson life.” The more I live like her, the happier I feel.

    People think it’s such a curious mystery that Emily Dickinson secluded herself more and more as she grew older, eventually reaching a point where she hardly left her room at all. Not to be “not like other girls” but I understand her completely. It’s more isolating to be around people who don’t understand you than it is to live a life of solitude with the one person who gets you completely. Not to say people didn’t appreciate or relate to her poems, but I’m sure very few understood how she arrived to them. What she saw and how she thought. Plus it’s suspected she was on the spectrum, so I’m sure the clattering and clammering of life outside her room was a lot to take in. She was witty and brave and willing to face death and new ideas, but she was a sensitive soul.

    When you have that much awareness, it doesn’t take much external stimulation to fill you up.

    This book I just finished reading, Bewilderment, is about a young boy suspected of autism who is beginning to have intensified struggles with regulating his emotions. His father doesn’t want to put him on medication, so he volunteers him for experimental emotional therapy treatment, which basically trains his mind to be more open, calm, and empathetic.

    This boy’s awareness expands so much that he realizes he’s both “up there” looking down on the experiment and “in here” experiencing the experiment.

    Holding still and looking had become his favorite activity in all the world.
    —Richard Powers, Bewilderment.

    The longer I meditate, the less I feel I need to do. I could sit in the backyard for hours on end, in the sun, watching a trail of ants, or the woodpecker hammering a hole into the side of the neighbor’s palm tree, or the hummingbird who I swear has a little crush on me, or wondering at the tufts of grass that suddenly sprang up out of our random backyard dirt pile. Grass! In the desert! In a dusty dirt pile!

    Solitude makes me incredibly happy. Not to say other humans don’t also thrill and delight me. But I feel like at some point I must have traded my authenticity and writing ability for charisma and social skills. If it’s a trade-off then I’ll gladly give those up to get myself back. I know it sounds dramatic but I want to withdraw from society in many ways. I want to regain my solitude and skill as a writer.

    Plus my human design type is manifesting generator which is the least collaborative type. I abhor being in groups unless I have some sort of leader power (but I don’t really like that dynamic so I’d rather not be in a group in the first place). I’m just uninterested in three legged races when I can run so much faster on my own. Which is probably why, still, as an almost 27-year old, the longest relationship I’ve ever been in was three and a half months. Seven years ago. And that was even with weeks of putting off the breakup. lol.

    I don’t want to isolate in an unhealthy way, a snarling wounded animal way. I just want to connect in a meaningful way. I don’t want to sit around talking about how sorry, how sad, with people who don’t know. I honestly just want to talk about my brother with my sister, because she’s the best person to reminisce with. We have the same mind when we think about him.

    But for others I want to write. Writing is the best way to connect outside of myself because it’s easier to be honest, to explain myself, to resonate on different ideas and feelings.

    And like the Rachel Carson quote at the top, nature has been my reserve of strength. Nature and solitude, meditation, words, the sun, the earth. And myself. I am my own solace.

    Everything feels so different and wrong, yet so right and completely me at the same time. I don’t know who I’ll be when I emerge from the cocoon, but I do know that no longer will I munch on leaves for sustenance, but instead I’ll feast on nectar.

    And I want to translate that taste into words.

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  • Essays

    flowers for him

    If a woman has artificial flowers in her house, flowers that need dusting twice a year but never die, she is closing herself off from any understanding of death.

    —May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

    I see my brother in the halls. He flickers and doesn’t speak. At night, if I’m lucky, he visits me in my dreams. I wish he came every night. Maybe he’s busy, maybe he’s resting. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough yet.

    If I could, I’d bring him outside with me, to stand in the sun. But he never follows me out. So I whisper to him instead, in the wind, to the trees, hoping he can hear me. Maybe I’m not listening well enough yet.

    The last time we hung out, one on one, was in the backyard gazebo. July 2021. Warm stone, smoothed over with dirt and leaves. It was windy that evening. I’ve swept it clean. I sweep it every day now.

    I wish I could give him flowers. People never give flowers to boys until after they die. I’ll plant him flowers and sing to them until they grow tall. Taller than me and the room and the house.

    Flowers always die, but still we plant them in the ground.

    I wish I could cut you down and take you with me, dry you and keep you pressed in my pocket, but I want you to keep growing so I’ll leave you there and visit often.

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  • Essays

    i dream in words

    My writing goes like this:

    I write a lot in my head.

    Even last night, I was having a very emotional moment, sobbing violently, and while that was happening, my brain was processing all the tricky problems I was trying to deal with, solving them, soothing me, and also writing an entire narrative about it in my head.

    The problem is that I write really well in my head, whisper words to myself all day long. But it’s almost like trying to recall a dream. You know it won’t be as vivid and clear when you wake up, so you try to stay half-asleep, remembering and reimagining this dream. When you wake up completely, you’ll be able to recall the gist of it, but the magic might be a bit faded.

    This happens to me when I try to exist the subconscious stew of my head and get the words onto paper. They feel flatter, duller, more confusing.

    I live within the dream of the words in my head, trying to call myself a writer, and failing for everything left unsaid.

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  • Essays

    mush inside a cocoon

    Imagine a caterpillar feeling the mysterious urge to make a cocoon and then turning almost completely into mush, having no idea what the fuck is going on, because it basically just turned into nutrient-rich soup. And then imagine some fellow caterpillar friends coming along and asking the cocooned mush “heyyyy what’s up, what’s new?”

    How the fuck does the caterpillar answer that in a way that doesn’t sound insane?

    That is what I’m going through. I feel like mush.

    It feels selfish to basically turn all my energy inward to focus on this metamorphosis I feel happening, but it’s necessary for the process. A caterpillar can’t half-ass their transformation. Despite having “transformed” many times in varying degrees of intensity, this is the one that feels—though not as emotionally intense as the one I went through in 2020—like I cannot spare any energy for anything else during this time.

    But it’s weird because I accidentally created a bit of a “life coach” dynamic with a lot of my friends last year, where I held a lot more space for them than I expected in return, out of fears of being rejected for being “too much” (a common occurrence among autistic females). I spent a lot of energy last year maintaining my long distance friendships, and basically collapsed from the imbalance of being leaned upon but barely being able to lean. So going from very involved supportive friend to basically ghosting everyone might have been a bit of a shock to them.

    But still, they ask after me, because they’re not assholes and they care about me.

    I told one friend “spiritual journey.” I told another “I can’t really explain what happening to me but I’m changing a lot.” Many of the conversations I’ve had are uncomfortable, because I’m no longer the “self” they’re used to, but I can’t articulate who I’m becoming or what’s even happening to me right now.

    I was venting about this to my sister today, and she’s actually the one who brought up the cocoon metaphor. I’d had the metaphor in my head for a bit, but hadn’t verbalized it to anyone as a way to describe my current condition.

    My sister said, “It makes me sad that your friends can’t understand that you’re in a cocoon right now, going through all these changes, becoming the person you’re supposed to be.”

    I was momentarily shocked that she was able to so easily see and verbalize what I’ve been going through. I seriously underestimated her. It feels so good to be seen like that.

    One of my hopes for this blog of mine is that it’ll help me better articulate the changes I’m going through, the evolution, the ascension, whatever the fuck it is. I have a vague inner knowing and I’ve seen a few random pieces of writing on the internet from “spiritual” people or whatever they are, who talk about this kind of thing—but I think I’m not going to understand this until I reach the other side, however long that’s going to take.

    The friend who I told “I can’t really explain what happening to me but I’m changing a lot” asked me if they were good changes, if I was happy.

    Yes, they’re very good changes. Yes, I’m very happy.

    Confused and mushy, but happy and good.

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  • Essays

    romanced by the sun

    I am alone a majority of the time but I rarely ever feel alone.

    I do not feel alone when I’m sitting in the sun, pleasantly warm with little covering up my skin. It’s no coincidence that they call it “sunkissed” for that’s how I feel with the sun heating up my skin, bringing out the natural toasty smell of me. How impossible it is to feel lonely when the lord of the day is caressing me, making my entire body blush.

    Even better for not feeling lonely when one is alone, is when the sun is accompanied by a breeze, softly. It makes me feel like something is happening. Like I’m at the beach or riding a bike down the boardwalk or cruising down PCH with the windows down (can you tell I miss California?).

    The last year and a half has felt like waiting and like growing. But I’ve learned gentleness and slow living, and that in the silence of the mind, the desert actually makes a lot of movement and noise. I end up feeling grateful that my life has emptied out and slowed down and simplified so much so that the sun and the wind have become my companions. I think this is how someone like Emily Dickinson gets made. Slow down and listen and feel. The earth comes alive. The characters of nature reveal themselves.

    Sometimes in the quiet revelry of worshipping the sun I wonder what it would be like to instead be caressed by a person. My skin is so soft; shouldn’t anyone else know this, touch this? It’s been 18 months since moving to Nevada, 18 months since being in the arms of another, four years since I was in an “official” relationship. Yet when my energy is not focused on the missing but instead on the other beauties of life, I hardly feel the desire to belong to someone. Don’t be mistaken: I have overflowing bucketfuls of love to give. But I suppose I feel that for now, me and my words and the sun and the wind have more need of my love than a lover.

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  • Essays

    write or rot

    I need to write more frequently. I feel like I need to publish every day. So I will until my body tells me to disappear and go inward for a while. Like a true manifesting generator.

    I was reading the newsletter of a writer I love, Peta Kelly, and she was saying she can only put out fresh stuff. Like she was editing some stuff she wrote in 2020/2021, and barely any of it was salvageable. It felt too “old” to publish.

    Her words are EXACTLY how I feel. My old writings feel stale. I feel like I need to share it ALL and share it FAST.

    I can barely stomach reading the stuff I wrote in 2020, nevermind publish something I wrote last MONTH. She and I are both manifesting generators (and I’m CERTAIN she’s also on the spectrum like me) so maybe that’s why. We like to work quickly and independently in phases and bursts.

    Which is why it’s been vital for me to get my platforms figured out, go inward for a bit and sort out what’s authentic, and then slam forward like a train. I’ve read that spectrum brains are like trains anyway.

    Once I figure out where I’m going, what I’m carrying, I’m moving and never stopping. Until I feel like it of course ;))

    I’ve always liked the idea of letting my words simmer—in theory—but in reality if I set something aside, it doesn’t feel like it’s simmering but rotting. I can’t put this out once it’s sat outside of my head, molding, rotting on paper, to be decided upon later. It either needs to stew in my head or be published immediately. I’d rather something melt away and be forgotten floating around in my head, than rot on paper, waiting for the right time to be released. Or worse, when I get something amazing out on paper but then overthink the editing process and it never gets put out to be read.

    Let things thaw out, but prep, cook, eat them the same day. Or they’ll spoil.

    I wrote this out on paper in the sun this afternoon and it’s midnight by the time I’m getting this up on my blog. I told myself to go to bed and finish it tomorrow but I literally know I’ll wake up and despise it. It will be oldy and moldy and need to be tossed for the fresh new thoughts of the day.

    This is kind of anti- the slow timeless work I’ve idealized. But for some reason I feel differently about the book I’m working on than I do about the stuff I want to share online. My book is a coming-of-age memoir, so I don’t feel the need to be fresh. It’s timestamped in my body and soul already. It’s just about untangling the right words from my head, shaping the story of my heart.

    But this damn blog, agh heaven help me, I need raw and fresh and wriggling.

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  • Essays

    reappearing body

    There used to be two ugly trees directly behind two palm trees in the backyard, but a couple weeks ago the neighbors had them cut down and removed. I like that the landscape looks more picturesque now.

    I don’t know how to feel about the fact that I’m happy two entire trees were killed for the sake of aesthetics.

    My parents didn’t like the pine needles that one of them dropped into our pool. The other one shot out seed pods periodically that always startled me and the dogs.

    I wonder what the neighbors did with the tree remains.

    After tromping around outside I got back in bed and read the entirety of Emily Ratajkowski’s book, My Body. Even though we live two completely different lives, I felt like I could have written that book myself. Almost as if I could have lived her exact life, if something in my timeline shifted ever so slightly.

    In July 2020 I took a vow of celibacy and singleness in order to focus my energy on my career and finances.

    My appearance used to project more outwardly. Men approached me in stores, or places I worked—or a few times even pulled over to the side of the road if they saw me walking on the sidewalk and offered me a ride.

    Somehow in the last year and a half, I seem to have learned the Marilyn Monroe trick, of turning myself off and on, because now I’m invisible. And I like it a lot. Invisible in a way where I still feel pretty but I keep it to myself. I project my energy inwardly.

    Seven months ago I deleted all of my social media.

    Three months ago my brother died.

    Both of those things left me feeling even more invisible, but this time invisible even to myself. I became more and more unconcerned with my appearance and with taking photos of myself. The latter seemed absolutely distasteful and pointless to me.

    It’s strange how grief for my little brother has affected the way I see myself. I’ve despised seeing myself in pictures the past couple months. I tried taking selfies periodically, just to see if my anguish was visible on the outside. I couldn’t see any sadness, but I also couldn’t see any beauty. My body felt like a husk.

    But today was different. Today I felt cute and pretty, and surprisingly, felt like documenting it. Even more surprisingly was that I liked the way I looked in the pictures. For the first time since my brother died, I feel pretty to myself again.

    Still not ready to project myself outward again, to “become her” like Marilyn Monroe. I still like being invisible to the world.

    But I’m happy that I started reappearing for myself again.

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  • Essays

    fighting with the wind

    The wind has been howling for two days now. There is a palm tree in front of my bathroom window, and when I was showering late this morning and the sun was behind the tree, the constant lightening and darkening of the room was making me feel emotionally queasy. Like I had a phantom headache and stomachache and raging anger, even though I wasn’t actually feeling those things.

    I love the wind when I am outside, but when I’m inside it makes me crazy. The sound used to give me nightmares as a kid. I felt very unsettled by the inconsistency of the noise. Even the ocean drives me a bit insane sometimes, but at least the ocean has a distinct pattern to its crashing.

    The wind forces me to be present. I love standing in the wind when it’s warm and sunny out. It feels like a wild animal wanting to play with me.

    But when I’m trying to do anything else in the wind, besides being present, I feel a bit crazy. I cannot read or write outside because the rattling papers frustrates me. Inside, trying to focus, it makes me just want to get back in bed and go to sleep. The wind makes me tired. I love to drive but the wind makes me a little nervous on the freeway and forces me to use both hands on the wheel when I’m more comfortable just lazily slinging my left arm on it and resting my right hand on the gear shift or sometimes pretending there’s someone in the passenger seat and I’m holding their hand.

    Maybe I should stop fighting with the wind and just do what it tells me. Get back in bed and read a book or go play outside.

    It’s evening now, and the wind has calmed. I am writing letters to some friends. I would love a third cup of coffee and a fourth chocolate chip cookie. I like the look of letter-writing supplies on my desk.

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  • Essays

    my emily dickinson year

    I’ve been calling 2021 my “Emily Dickinson year,” because I made the firm and intentional decision to be a loner and a homebody. I’ve been turning down dates, I haven’t gone out and made new friends, I’ve done very few “activities.” Basically, I’ve done nothing but sit at home.

    Please don’t misunderstand: my decision to “stay home” has nothing to do with the lockdown. I have exactly zero fucks to give to the government.

    But it was the quarantine orders that got my gears spinning around the concept of being at home, and wondering why so many people felt trapped there. Instead of fighting the system in a knee jerk reactionary way, I decided to go inward.

    If Emily Dickinson hardly left her home her entire life and could fill her head and heart with so much wonder on the small parcel of earth she inhabited—why couldn’t I do that for a year? Why couldn’t I, too, partake in “the spreading wide my narrow Hands to gather Paradise,” as she wrote in her poem, “I dwell in Possibility”?

    I didn’t quite have “become one of the greatest poets in American history” type expectations, but I did want to see what happened when I removed external stimuli and the “fear of missing out” from my body. It was a task that required much meditation and journaling, because external stimulation is an addiction and FOMO is a nervous system response.

    It’s crazy to be able to actually admit this, but after several months of this I genuinely don’t give a shit what other people are doing or what they think of me and my life. Not a defensive reaction, but a deep settledness in my bones. It feels like a superpower.

    I refer to last year as my V For Vendetta year. In an aesthetic sense, I did shave my head like Natalie Portman (although I was smiling giddily rather than crying). But on a deeper level, I felt like everything I thought I knew about life and the world had been stripped away. Everything opened up to me, layers at a time. Things are still opening up to me, but last year was my first fresh shock of “the world doesn’t work the way I assumed it did.” The head shaving was basically a physical marker to represent how different I felt inside, to represent the pivotal moment when I realized that losing everything wasn’t the end, but just the beginning of my new life.

    This year, things are quieter. I’ve come to peace with many things. Even the things I desire to change and am actively changing, I’m still at peace with their current states. I’ve given myself a healthy dose of peace, stillness, meditation, and journaling—and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

    Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, was an absolute game changer for me. I began to implement her morning pages back in November (three daily pages of handwritten stream of consciousness journaling). It was like I suddenly had an answer for every existential problem that came up. If I could only recommend one book for the rest of my life, it would be this one.

    Mediation was a huge thing for me too. Learning to shut off the live stream of thoughts, the barrage of information, the 24/7 movie screen. I came to realize that was the source of everything I needed. Nothing external is what makes up me as a human being. I don’t need to be fed constant entertainment via social media, movies, friends, events, hobbies. All I need is within me, if I’d give myself a goddamn minute to tap into it.

    And lastly just good old fashioned peace and quiet. Sitting in stillness in the desert of Nevada. The desert is a great place to sit in observation, because at first glance it comes across as lifeless. But the more you sit, the more you see. The desert is ablaze with life.

    I’d find a trail of ants and follow it, looking for where they ended and where they began. I’d watch a hummingbird  make a pass through the backyard flowers every afternoon until one day I realized I was a little bit in love with him. One day, after weeks of watching him, he flew right up to my face and hovered there for a second. I’d listen to the various bird sounds and I swear that one of them sounds like “AL-LY?” A high pitched timbre, the note rising at the end.  I watched the lizards sneak out of the flowers and bushes and crawl onto the warm pavement to do push-ups. I went on long walks, in the afternoon in the winter and at night when it started getting hot again. One hour, two hours, three hours in the desert. I’d walk and walk, marching to the mantra “solvitur ambulando.” Latin for “it is solved by walking.”

    And notes. Constant note taking. Filling notebooks and index cards. I finally began to develop my writing voice, finally began working on a couple books, writing poetry, looking to submit some things, started pursuing work as a freelance proofreader and editor.

    I experimented daily. I would find what worked and what didn’t, and I had a system for actually making these realizations. Quiet, peace, solitude, a practice in awareness, note-taking and journaling. Creating what I wanted bit by bit each day by figuring out what I wanted, what I didn’t want, and closing the gap between them.

    “. . . failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”
    —J. K. Rowling, 2008 Harvard commencement speech

    Sitting at home, opening my mind, and taking note of the daily changes in my heart and brain has made me into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I’m proud of who I am. My younger self would be in awe of me, and a bit intimidated. Some things are still in the works to fruition, but everything I’ve dreamed of for myself is coming to pass. Not even six months into my Emily Dickinson year, and she’s already changed my life. She knew something about living.

    The home (even living at your parents’ home at the age of 25) is a wildly expansive place, if you let it.

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  • Essays

    the feelings are the meaning

    Some people are overwhelmed with the concept of meaning, whether searching for the meaning or insisting there is none at all. Some people are overwhelmed with the concept of feelings, whether insisting that they’re nothing more than a chemical reaction or cautioning against them altogether because they’ll deceive and betray you.

    I’m not out here chasing highs like an addict, but for me, feelings are the meaning. I can read a sentence in a book and be overcome with emotion. Beauty, sadness, resonance, joy. My insides feel like champagne and fireworks and stardust. My eyes fill with tears and I don’t know why but I like it because it feels like how you would explain to a robot what being alive feels like.

    Jedidiah Jenkins wrote in his book, Like Streams to the Ocean, “I’d say life itself is meant to be our soul mate.”

    I contain the entire universe beneath my skin, and the things I encounter through life are what crack open the feelings and connections. I love the concept of “i am the universe experiencing itself.” How else can you explain infectious laughter, reckless nostalgia, déjà vu, tears of resonance? Why is this song so beautiful that I have chills and tears? Why is this line of poetry giving me butterflies and nausea?

    If that’s not enough meaning to be alive—the experience of pure crackling ALIVENESS—I don’t know what is.

    Touch yourself, experience yourself, made in God’s image, love yourself.

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