Stake in the ground
When I have huge gaps of time in between publishing or posting what I’ve written, it’s usually because of option paralysis. Words are constantly looping around in my head, forming half baked ideas that could be fleshed out if only I would get them onto the page.
I think that’s what my Instagram Stories has turned into. The place to untangle the thoughts in my head and share these unfinished idea snippets. They disappear in 24 hours so it doesn’t really matter if I’m just mulling over something and leave it open-ended. But I’m often afraid to commit to one thing and see it through to the finish.
If I sit down to write something, what if I die right after and that was the last thing I ever got to write? That’s going to be my legacy?? Better pick a good one! But oh, there’s so many good ones (says the writer, in admiration of herself). Or what if I have multiple ideas stewing inside my head at the same time and I forget all the rest of them while I’m in the process of writing one of them down? Better commit them to memory first, but hurry before something interrupts and distracts that distractible memory. But then by that point it’s just quicker to write everything in my head and imagine sharing them all with the world, all at once. That only takes a few seconds. In my imagination I can write everything I need to write and there’s no chance of failure. There are no clunky sentences or hard-to-explain ideas or dissatisfactory endings.
But I guess this is the one I’ve picked for today. This is the one I’ve settled on. If I die before writing again, let the world know that this was my final legacy. That I was not too afraid to commit to finishing this piece on February 22, 2021.
The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts. And the most important post? The one you’ll write tomorrow.
—Seth Godin, blog post
So cheers to today’s stake in the ground and prayers for the chance to do the important work all over again tomorrow.
My sister is my forever valentine
In February 2018, just a few days before Valentine’s Day, I told my sister I was bisexual. It was a rough time for me. My boyfriend had just dumped me. And my best friend, who was also gay, who had been the one to encourage me to embrace being gay, had flipped a 180, decided to get conversion therapy, and started shaming me for continuing down the dark path of homosexuality acceptance instead of following her penitent Christian example.
My sister didn’t say much as I revealed my secret to her. Just sat there, absorbing everything I was saying. I was a little nervous at her silence. But then on Valentine’s Day that year, she gave me a rose and delivered a mini speech. She told me that she loved me unconditionally, no matter who I chose to love. And that the people who hurt me were stupid idiots.
Obviously I sobbed.
I used to be so anti- Valentine’s Day. In junior high, me and my best friend and our favorite youth leader at church started a silly little club called “PAVD” (People Against Valentine’s Day). Even planned to make t-shirts. Black ones, of course.
But thanks to my sister, it has turned into one of my favorite holidays. I can’t remember when this started, maybe 2010? We decided that Valentine’s Day was going to be our holiday. For the rest of our lives. We got Happy Meals, watched the Valentine’s SpongeBob episode (season 1 episode 16a), and just hung out and had intentional conversation. And we’ve continued the tradition every year since, though for the past several years it’s had to be over video chat (and we have too much self-respect now to give McDonald’s our money).
A couple years into our tradition, maybe 2012 or 2013, a lady at our church found out about it and laughed at us. She told us we’d get over it soon enough because we’d get married and “obviously” Valentine’s Day would become about our spouses, not each other. We laughed too, and whispered to her retreating back “you wish we were as lame as you.”
I’ve never been in a relationship during Valentine’s Day, they’ve just never overlapped. But my sister has been with the same guy since 2015 and married for almost three years now, and he knows not to mess with our holiday. That sister bond is fierce for life.
Happy Valentine’s Day to my dearest love, my sister Elisabeth.
The art of finding myself was discovered in the practice of losing myself.
Bit by bit, drip by drip. A dare, a challenge.
I’d watch trees in autumn happily shake loose the weight of their leaves and I’d look at my own in sadness. They were a part of me; they couldn’t come free. The same old leaves, year after year. Ragged edges, disintegrating, but still firmly attached.
The trees would laugh and wave their branches at me. “What are you so worried about? We lost it all and we’re still here. Feeling freer than free.”
It seemed a melancholy process, a dance with grief, to lose everything. But it also looked unspeakably, joyfully freeing. So bit by bit, drip by drip, I practiced slowly setting to the ground the ways of being that had grown all over my body.
The more I lost, the more I mourned. But the more I began to feel like myself. As if life wasn’t exclusively about learning and collecting, but also about being comfortable with shedding the pieces that clung to me starting the second that I came out of the womb.
Drip, drip, drop. Beautiful undressing.
The sun and the moon
I told my sister that I felt like the moon. There one day, gone the next. Bright and visible and craving attention, and then all of a sudden fleeing, hibernating, non-existent. It was kind of tiring, I told her. Always waking up each day a little bit different. The phases never stuck around long enough to stabilize or feel comfortable.
My sister said she was jealous of that. She wished she could change quicker but felt like she was always there, like the sun. And if she wasn’t it was because she was unable to push away the thick dark clouds that turned her invisible, unable to gauge when she’d shine again.
I said her consistency sounded kind of nice. She said she liked my ability to quickly bounce back.
The sun and the moon have always been in love with each other.
Start now, finish never
I leave a little bit of coffee or tea in the bottom of my mugs, and when I clean the kitchen I make sure there’s always a dish or two left unwashed in the sink. I abandon TV shows right before watching the final season and if I get interrupted in conversations I never trail back around to finish the point I was trying to make.
A prayer, an offering, to the gods. So that hopefully as they sit up there, watching me, gossiping about me, they come to the conclusion that “Clearly this girl is just getting started. She’s so messy, so many moving parts and unfinished projects in her life.”
Yes, I’ll finish this tomorrow. Agreed, there’s still so much for me to do here. I promise to come back in the morning. No, I’m not ready to leave yet.
Not a fear of death, not a superstition, but a celebration of life. Look! I’m here, I’m messy, I am moving pieces and parts everywhere I go, I’m alive, I am now.
I make sure I always start more projects than I can possibly finish, because if I’ve run out of projects and all my loops are closed I’ll know for sure that I’ve died.
Fuck facts, face feelings
I don’t know what to write anymore so I’m just going to write my feelings.
Which is what I should have been doing all along, because every time I ask myself what I want to do with my life I reply, “I just want to write stories and make people feel things.” But it’s kind of tough to make people feel things when I strip all the emotion out of my writing.
I’m emotionally honest with myself though. Of course I am. That’s all I ever am. It’s basically my religion—that brutally honest moralistic authenticity, baby—my INFP power. But when I express myself to others, it’s edited so much that it feels like sterile dusty soil after decades of planting the same shitty crops on them. Words, writing, voices. All hollowed out until there’s nothing of myself left.
I’ve had trouble communicating my feelings my entire life, and I guess that comes from growing up with emotionally unavailable parents. It’s been seeping into my writing without me even realizing it. Until I began to feel like I could only write when I was pissed off or when I wanted to crack jokes. That’s the only way I, a generationally emotionally unavailable person, knows how to connect with others. Pick fights or deflect intimacy with humor. Friction. Chaos. Ah, familiar comforts.
But what do I do if I’m not offending people by criticizing their religion or cracking jokes while having sex with people I barely know? Do I make people happy? Do I make people cry? I suppose it’s time to openly face my feelings or give up writing. That’s all I have left to offer, that’s the only way out. Fuck facts, face my feelings, share what I find.
Layers of death pressed into life
A thousand and one
Cycles of evolutions
To create this compression
I feel the whisper
Of life buried and overturned
And spread out across surfaces
How can you think you know me?
I am a cycle of evolutions too
I am made up of a million and one
Deaths pressed into life
I am not me
You are not you
We are made of each other
And of the ground we’ll return to
Why I never finish blog posts
I’m not great at finishing blog posts. I see people online with sub-par writing skills, posting that they were featured in some random lifestyle magazine with an article about like “ten ways to declutter your life” and if I tried to sit down and write a post like that, I would start out writing the numbers 1 through 10 and then end up with an essay about the psychology of aesthetic, with nine other different rabbit trails that could be separate blog posts in and of themselves.
It’s so hard for me to finish something, because writing = inspiration, so the more I write and try to finish something, the more ideas I get and the more distracted I become.
I’M OVERWHELMED BY HOW MUCH INSPIRATION I HAVE AND HOW MANY IDEAS I ACQUIRE.
A nostalgic last meal
At work, one of my coworkers asked all of us what we’d want to eat for our last meal if we were on death row. There were the usual answers: steak, lobster, New York pizza—fancy expensive delectable foods like that.
Everyone stopped talking and all laughed a bit when I gave my answer: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Made by my mother, if possible.
Think about it: this is the last time you’re going to eat before you die. What experience do you want to have? Sure, you have good tasty food, you can experience a new thing before you die. But would you want your last thoughts and feelings to be ones of frantic panic, clawing at one final outside moment?
I’d want my last experience to be one of nostalgia and memories of childhood. I’d want to thank my mother for the life she gave me, and silently ask forgiveness for the way I squandered it. I’d want to remember being a child, before I’d ever done anything that had granted me a seat in the electric chair.
Two girls and a funeral
I had a dream you died.
You did something they considered bad. Not something Illegal, but something Sinful. Like they found out you had sex or something. They couldn’t wrap their minds around you doing something like this, whatever it was. It was just so “bad” and so unlike you.
So they made a doppelgänger of you and held a funeral. It was out on a wide prairie, with tall yellow grass and wildflowers blowing in the wind. You were wearing a white dress and holding a bouquet of baby’s breath. Your hair was curled, but you—the real you—told me you wished they had left it straight.
Your parents and your siblings all circled around you in prairie-clothes, the girls’ hair all loose and curled and flapping around everywhere. One by one, each person paid a bouquet of flowers next to you in your open casket, and then walked away.
You and I were actually there as funeral attendees, but no one acknowledged your existence.