RIP creative heart

I recently had the most complete draining of my creative energy, my spirit. It was an unfortunate result of my sorority and the demands they place on their members. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that these requirements often make a lot of people more responsible, involved in their respective communities, and overall allow for growth. In my case, I am drained. I’m a senior and my work is suffering. 

I awoke today with a bitterness in my heart.

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It’s my fault because I didn’t read the announcement properly or something but I had it in my heart that I would be able to go alum early and it seems that is no longer the case. Which fucking sucks because I hadn’t realized how much of my mind had been set on the freedom I would soon experience. There is no way that I can continue being involved in this organization and still be able to create without this sort of negativity over my shoulder.

I feel it whenever I listen to anyone talk about their work or when I feel the pressure of deadlines. I need out. I’m suffocating and I need the fuck out.

It’s funny because when I got the email about going alum, the president’s phrasing was such that “I had not served my full four years” which I thought sounded like a contract for enlisted soldiers or a prison sentence. Either way, I’m definitely a prisoner in a voluntary placement.

I can’t drop because I’ve invested way too much time and I need the resume items I’ve accrued. I need the stupid accolades and the embroidery on my sash when I graduate. I don’t have anything else on my grad school application. I’m out of options. Send help please. 

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Welcome back, it’s been a while

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Abandonment issues are really weird. You know, it’s been around twelve years now (I think, but math has never been my strong suit) and I still feel the ghost of them. Sometimes, it colors my interactions with friends, tells me to build boundaries and shelter myself from lifelong friendships. Sometimes, it takes a really long time to even become aware of their effects before I find the strength in myself to start making changes. That’s the biggest reason why I find myself attracted to art. That’s the one time where I am most comfortable being completely vulnerable about my perspective on the world. Mostly because my history informs my present, my work ends up being something about my mother. Hurrah.

When it comes to romantic relationships, I don’t know why I still find myself surprised when they show up like a hated ex who likes to ruin all the newfound good stuff I’ve started to build up.

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It was a normal day, nothing different from any other. Except that I’ve sort of become comfortable hearing from my boyfriend either via text, snapchat, etc, on a daily basis. Even if that’s just an “I’m just saying hi xx” and that’s it for the day. Maybe it’s just a silly picture of him doing something in his room. But regardless, that happens everyday now. Call me spoiled, but I think I expect that. And then he didn’t contact me at all and I started thinking to myself, ‘he’s leaving me now’ and I couldn’t shake this feeling like he was seeing other people and I wasn’t good enough anymore and throughout my whole paranoid breakdown, I knew that’s just what it was: a silly reflection of my deep seated abandonment issues. It had absolutely nothing to do with him and yet it totally paralyzed me for a few hours, maybe even a day. It doesn’t help that my exes have been totally fucked up people (another reflection of my mommy issues). I just thank god that I don’t have to deal with both mommy and daddy issues. That would make for a really torrid milkshake of psychological bullshit.

So there I am today, in the shower with him and he’s soaping my back and I started crying. He never knew I was crying and I didn’t turn around just to show him I was crying but just the simple act of touching me sweetly, broke me. I drove home and cried again because my heart was just a total mess. He’s actually perfect for me at this point in my life and I will not do what I usually do: lose interest to avoid being hurt and abandoned. Because that’s what I always do at around a year of dating someone. I find out I either rushed into a terrible relationship or slowly retreat into myself so that I don’t have to deal.

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I’m just going to keep myself aware of my own bullshit as much as possible and hope for the best. He’s definitely got his own list of skeletons he’s working through and it’s kind of incredible because we’re both bringing out better versions of one another and I think that’s really healthy and great. Everyday, I feel like the luckiest girl alive. When I leave him, I feel starved for his presence even after like nine month of dating which is a feeling I hope never leaves. I’ve done it right this time (with his help one hundred percent). I haven’t jumped into bed with a stranger. I haven’t chosen to ignore some major personality flaw. We’ve done all the steps, the ones that make a really strong foundation for a good relationship and I’m ridiculously proud of that.

And yet, here come the stupid abandonment issues to haunt me. They make me hesitate when I feel like reaching out, they make me overthink things I know shouldn’t be weird. The minute I’ve been single for a while, I seem to be more aware of myself and my actions and I really feel like I’m doing everything right. The longer I’m with someone, the easier the doubt steals in. The only thing that makes sense right now is graduating, being a good sister in my sorority, and taking advantage of every damn resource I’m paying for in college. All good things, I know. Thank god for writing, right?

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Home.

It’s taken me a year but I think I’m finally understanding why I stayed in my sorority. Like most things, the benefits of a decision don’t usually reveal themselves until the end. Since I’m at the halfway point – I go alum in Spring- I’ve been weirdly sentimental lately. All this talk at recruitment practice has reminded me of the way I felt before I joined. It reminded me of all the reasons I was seeking strong female bonds.

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People will say that it’s all fake and that we’re paying for friendships. On some level, there’s truth to that. But I guess it’s kind of like being in college and then paying to go to an all girl’s school at the same time. There are events, sports, uniforms, rules, bitchy people, drama. But there’s also a deep understanding that everyone is there for the same reason: to be a part of something. Even if that something doesn’t really mean that much in the grand scheme of things, embracing the present is no less valuable than working towards something bigger.

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My sorority has taught me what I stand for, who I am. Most of the time, I feel like I only discover these things when I’m being pulled against my core beliefs. I’ve learned that I am kinder than I thought. I only saw this when people weren’t kind to me. I have learned that I am trustworthy and a pretty damn good secret-keeper. I saw this when people talked shit, or revealed things about themselves. I didn’t reciprocate. I learned that I am capable of being overwhelmed by other peoples’ emotions. I learned this when I became consumed by negativity because of the chatter of complaints around me. I learned that I have more courage than most people. I’ve only ever witnessed this in terms of male relationships and once I saw this in a group setting, I realized I do speak up for what I believe in. I learned that I won’t speak up when it’s something petty and will be sorted by someone else. I learned that I naturally delegate tasks through subtle suggestion, not coercion. I learned that I do not naturally give trust easily. I knew this before, but even after a year of being surrounded by these women, I am only just beginning to feel like I can let go of some of my defenses.

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I needed to write this so that one day when I look back and think, ‘damn that was a waste of time’ or ‘thank god it’s over’, I will also remember all the good stuff that came out of it. I am no longer afraid of women. I am no longer afraid to paint. I am worthy of meaningful relationships and I am worthy because I have witnessed those who I deem unfit, receive the gift of friendship even when they shouldn’t. I am no better and no worse.

The human condition dictates that humans crave comfort and love. The fear of being alone is so strong, we work to find peace so that we don’t have to feel that way. I know these are random thoughts, but I can feel time slipping by so quickly and I’m a senior this year and totally terrified of graduation so I can say without a doubt, I made the right choice. I picked the right house. I found my home.

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There are some changes on the horizon

It’s been a while. Then again, that cycle of summer processing seems to be upon me. In my defense, I’ve also been trying to put off processing through a few recent developments. Prop 57 has impacted my mother’s sentence, as well as a few programs she’s involved herself in over the last decade. It looks like she’s out on early release. Nine months from now actually, give or take. I thought we had another couple years.

I don’t really know how to feel about it yet. I’m not as freaked out as I thought I would be but that’s also because it feels like I’m sitting in the road watching a truck come straight for me. Obviously, that’s mildly dramatic. That truck could be a figment of my imagination.

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I think the most profound aspect of this news that has me boggled is how this will affect my art. For most of my life, my writing, art, and other coping mechanisms were populated with prison themes: time, loss, abandonment. I never had to dip my pen in different ink.

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sick of dealing with prison themes. I never wanted to let her life choices define my own but I also couldn’t deny myself the experience of them. What a weird, tangled web I found myself in.

The good news is she’s more freaked out than I am. I’m trying my best not to have sympathy for her but I can’t help it. It’s going to be really weird for her. When she went in, dial-up was common place and people still used AOL.

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The transition process is going to be shocking to her system. She claims to be all hardened and whatnot (and I’m sure she is), but I know there are going to be a LOT of midnight phone calls where she’s crying and frustrated because something in her house keeps making a noise or she can’t figure out how to listen to a voicemail or something. I expect this.

I will also not be her metaphorical crying shoulder. I will be a helpful daughter on my own terms, with lots and lots of boundaries. I might finally be able to start throwing away some of her mail.

My sister just told me she’s been throwing her letters away. I’ve kept every single one, including envelopes, for this whole damned sentence. I sort of just want to burn them but I feel like there’s a really good art project in store for them. Hopefully with a different theme.

Does this mean that I can give myself permission to stop fixing all the broken pieces? I’ve long known I’m awesome and been grateful for the challenges she’s thrown my way but I’m still a product of my circumstances. I’m actually sort of concerned for my own children. They won’t have nearly the amount of depth I do, which both worries and delights me.

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She’s going to make it to my college graduation.

It’ll be the first graduation she’s ever made it to (besides elementary school which doesn’t really count). I’m actually really happy about it.

God, I hate writing about this stuff. It’s all so damned heavy and while necessary, I can feel myself sounding like a broken record. I’m just ready for it to be over. Maybe I’ll actually go back into my darkroom again. Maybe I’ll shoot some film again.

I swear, if she tries to bake me cookies and do my fucking laundry though I’m going to lose it.

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2:28am

Obligations
Affiliations
Incarceration
Connotation
Bureaucracy and blurred red lines
Sharpness of indecency
I hate this need to fight authority
My stupid desire to break the rules
Has more power over me than I do
This strange contradiction
Fuels my conviction
And I’m faced over and over
The whisper of memories fade
Replaced by rage
I’m not angry

My neck keeps shaking
My Russian teachers always made me cry

I hated bending and twirling
As long as they were there
I knew only good and bad
No compromise

I’m so very clearly there
Pick and choose the parts that make sense
My family says it’s easier to digest
I’m not craving
The Buddha says
But his golden body glows
I’ll swipe green across canvas
And spend hours on circles and spirals and waves
Tiny little pencil marks
One thing out of place
Daylight balance, warm tone, cool
Wipe clean the rules

In a field where the human condition
Is the one and only true theme,
Why did I stick myself in a place
Where identity is destroyed
And smiles quickly employed
And evil ovals stare at me
Across the plastic tables
“Not excused, sorry but that doesn’t count, you’ll still have to pay”
Okay.

2:17am

As I struggle with my own identity over the last few months, I realize that I was so frustrated by being marginalized with my community. People kept seeing me as a person I didn’t associate with directly. I thought sure, maybe there is some overlap but that’s not representative of me completely; there’s more than meets the eye. I realize now that being marginalized is actually way better because it allows me to remain somewhat out of reach. I can pick and choose which part of my community I associate with and which part I don’t. It’s nice because it’s safer there. I have more freedom to flow freely between circles. There is no group with one claim on me. That’s a double edged sword sometimes because it means I hear about things late sometimes but I make an in impression on people so there’s always someone who remembers. In many ways, it’s that same alienation that allows me to stand out. I think it’s silly that this all occurs to me as I’m browsing on amazon for a laptop cover. As a student, it’s those choices that will define how my friends and peers see me. Do I choose to blend in, or stand out? Or is it more so a question of accepting who I’m already perceived to be?

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I really miss this feeling

The times I feel most at peace is when I am creating art. I communicate with my art and people see that sometimes and sometimes they don’t. Tears come to my eyes when I expose my prints. When I feel my spirit lift, I know this can’t be me. I see my hands and I don’t believe that is me. I surrender.

I stopped trying to control people and the world around me. I started to let go and I felt better. I asked questions why i might not be right, how I could change and be better, so I felt better.

Whenever I can, I help people. I talk to people. We get so busy all the time that I make it a point to talk to people. And for whatever reason, whenever I do, it turns out this person is someone I was seeking. Sometimes it’s a job I needed, sometimes a friend, sometimes an ally. We are all connected.

I help as much as I can. And I get lost as much as I can. I try all the time and I pray constantly.

Things pop up all the time. Sometimes I help someone and I hesitate before I do so, but I do it anyway. Not even five or ten minutes later, I am given something in return. Be it a compliment, a kind sentiment, a physical something. It never fails. Sometimes it takes a couple weeks and sometimes it’s immediate.

I have asked so many questions and strangely enough, the music talks to me. As soon as I worry about something and I have a clear mind as I do so, the next song that comes on answers me.

For so long I couldn’t sleep. I had terrible nightmares. I told myself to experience the anger I felt during my sleep and eventually I found myself sleeping longer than I should. My dreams were vivid and bright. But eventually I forgave my mother and now we are working together to help people.

I stopped blaming people and I learned how to truthfully feel my emotions. I stopped trying to define my feelings and instead accepted times when I didn’t know how I felt, or understanding I might be angry in the future.

Everything I’m angry about I use on a scale. In five years time will it matter? A day? A week? A year?

So what does it matter?

There are signs everywhere. You just have to be open to seeing them. When he spoke about doing what our intuition says, I have felt that 100%. I only ever get in trouble when I doubt that.

I say thank you everyday. Even when I’m having a bad day I say thank you.

I started with forgiveness and then I ended up being grateful.

I stopped giving people the middle finger and started giving peace signs. People are so unprepared to deal with nice things, they just drive away, feeling odd.

I don’t like repeating lessons over and over. So I try to learn the first time around. Trust myself, and I know the answer will come.

Rumi always taught me to break things down

Do I pick male relationships and friendships because I know they will end? Is it some form of self destruction? Is it to punish myself, ensuring that eventually they either fade away or destroy me, so that I’m stuck in a constant cycle of grieving? Is it that I am obsessed with feeling pain or going totally numb?

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I have lately been trying to cultivate my female friendships. This sorority has opened up doors for me in a way I never knew or thought possible. Everyday that I talk to a sister, I realize I’m missing the guidebook that most girls learn throughout their lives. I think that scares me. I always keep everyone at arms length. I do my best to be authentic and genuine but sometimes its necessary to smile and nod with everyone else because their nuances I don’t understand yet.

I find that when I choose a male friend, I already know what kind of personality they have from the moment I decide to invest energy in that relationship. When I find a female friend, I stand guarded, as if preparing for battle. I can feel this rustle of dragon armor, alerted by any possible action out of place.

I think that’s why I’ve avoided them for so long.

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It only just dawned on me that it’s not that women aren’t good friends and I’m saving myself from inevitable pain. Female friendships are potentially lifelong in a way that scares me. I’ve only ever had lifelong friends in family members. Except for the occasional boyfriend, I’ve only ever left myself raw with my sister.

I had one best friend in high school that was a girl. We were so close it was like family. I never worried about judgement or anything like that because we were so open with each other, we had no fear. And then something changed, I think it was just a natural progression of growing up, and I never really got over the idea that every future girlfriend would be some sort of backstabber or painful enemy. Weirder still as that even that specific best friend and I never really stabbed each other in the back, we just went our separate ways.

I know how to deal with break ups on some level. I’ve never dealt with any intensely long term ones but the few men I’ve loved, I’ve loved more deeply than I think I’ve let myself feel for my friends. It’s like wild abandon when I fall in love, both freeing and unbelievably merciless. It may be cheesy but it’s totally like the buildup before a roller coaster. My heart unfolds like a lotus releasing water and slowly builds up to a strong exterior.

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It’s like I decide to let all the men I love be the ones with the power to heal me. In the end they’re the only ones I let in. And for the longest time I had always chalked it up to mommy issues and even though that may be true, is that the whole truth? Have I been slowly convincing myself that I should live alone quietly just to avoid peace and happiness? I definitely hesitate more when I think about going out with girlfriends one on one. My first thought is always, what will we have to talk about? What if they don’t like me? What if I say something stupid or there’s a lull in the conversation? What joke will I make then?

My last relationship was a doozy. But it also taught me a lot about dealing with manipulative people and so for that, I am grateful to have felt the pain. But what about with women? I’ve had girlfriends in most of my life and while we weren’t exactly sisters, we got pretty close. And then something would happen, so and so talked crap about this or blah blah hooked up with this guy and people would disappear and it felt petty but I’m realizing slowly, that stuff does matter. It’s important to know where your loyalties should lie and it’s important to also build up those kinds of skills in yourself. I thought they were petty because I’ve always been a fiercely loyal person, except I’ve made mistakes in the past too and people learn at different paces.

So then I realize that my role in most relationships has been “the mother”. Which is definitely something I’ve been working on. I do not wish to mother anymore. So if I can’t mother, what the hell do I do? What other role is there?

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I don’t even know what positions to apply for. I think back on qualities of friends I’ve observed and I get most of my information from books and movies. I observe as much as I can in real life situations but it doesn’t always apply because I haven’t memorized the moves yet.

I have a friend I want to let in. She’s the most terrifying adventure on the horizon. It’s so silly but I can feel it, we could be friends for a ridiculously long time. Like really, really good friends. So why does that scare me so much?

It’s taken me several months of dipping my feet in the pool to prepare myself to jump in. I’ve set it up next semester so that I’m hugely involved in all of the events and I’ve joined this suicide prevention organization that will be working on campus too to help remove the stigma associated with depression. This means lots of working one on one with feelings and listening and lots of sisterhood commitments. I’m taking Tai Chi right afterwards and I feel like that’s going to be my favorite class. I know that all of this will work its way out and I can feel time slowly peeling off layers on my exterior. I always thought you had to heal something from the inside out for it to feel better. I think I really needed to do that for a while. Now, I’m going to try something different.

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