2:56am 8/23

I am water

I wash away the edges

Wrapping, smoothing

It took time for you to figure out

I was there

I sprouted a stream

Laid my roots

And never left
It only took time for you to see

And yes, it does taste sweeter

Because my doubts don’t exist
I had no idea you’d been warming me up from the inside

I can bathe in it freely

And soon, without fear

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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Fall, Metaphor, Fall

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I keep complaining that I’m too old for college. I keep seeing everyone else I know on Facebook with their new careers and various professions, and I think to myself, ‘god, why am I taking so long to get my life started?’ And then, just a minute ago I realized that college is really damned good for me. I don’t know how to be a friend to people, I don’t know how to have fun responsibly, I don’t know how to be an adult. I don’t know how to get my shit together. I picked a great fucking time in my life to really just get it all out. I think my mother failed because she had a kid so young. I mean I can’t imagine having an eight year old by my side right now and I know that I’m like that old kid in college but whatever. I’m learning so much about myself right now and I honestly can’t imagine having to do it differently.

I got that dating app, Bumble. I don’t know why exactly I decided to use it. Most of those things are usually catered towards booty calls and fuck buddies like Tinder but I think because it’s so fledgling, there are actually a couple people on there worth texting. It may sound naive, but honestly I can’t imagine being apart of some crazy circle jerk with frat guys and I swear, I’m no homie hopper.

There are definitely the creepers on there but for the most part, the guys seem pretty tame. I am constantly reminded that I am behind. Seeing as the format is such that the female starts the conversation, I have no idea what to say to someone who’s already in the midst of their career. Usually, it’s just random shit I think of that theoretically I would say to someone in a bar or in public. I try to be as authentic as I can. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In a weird way, it’s totally liberating.

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What it has made me realize though is that I have a lot to learn. There is someone real. There is someone out there who totally fits with me. I may not find him on some online dating app, but he’s out there and I’ve discovered I’m on a quest for something real.

Sex sucks sometimes. Relationships suck sometimes. Everything, on some level, really sucks sometimes. But I think what determines whether it’s worth fighting for is the good stuff too. How high can I get when I’m happy? How much does it fill me up? How do I attempt this task without getting too invested too soon?

I have an attachment problem. I know this. My life coach and I talk about this. It stems from my unconscious abandonment anxiety. It lives, it breaths. I can feel it whenever I walk through campus. It perches on my shoulder and tells me everyone is leaving me. It lives in my mind as I try to sleep.

I see the ghosts of all the faces I miss and all the people I’ve lost and I constantly grieve for people that mean nothing. In the end, I know that I will find peace and so I live my waking moments grasping at straws trying to piece together a puzzle I seem to never fully understand. And that’s okay. Because I think I still have a crap ton of stuff to get out of my system that I didn’t know was alive.

My aunt told me that your mind can only process one emotion at a time. When dealing with trauma, it is largely incapable of deciphering things it doesn’t want to recognize as part of the problem. That’s why things move so slowly. One minute, I think I’ve processed enough to move past old problems, and the next I’m bludgeoned over the head with something I dealt with years ago. All the anger aside, I recognize that life is about struggle. I wholeheartedly embrace that part. It fuels my need to create, express, articulate. It is a part of me.

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As the air to cools and I remember last fall, I know why this is my favorite time of year. I send my blessings to the people who fill me up with frustration because it drives me to refocus. I feel the humidity change and I know it’s time to begin the next phase of evolution. I can’t wait to change I can’t wait to be different.

I remember

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I like this time of year because I’ve always lived in the same place. Every time I smell the air and feel the chill or the wind picks up at just the right moment, it’s like this transportation back to random moments that smelled the same or felt the same. Depending on the music, it’s like I don’t even exist in this time or place.

I remember being very little, perched on the edge of the top of the staircase watching my mom vacuum the hallway to her room. There was this awful orange shag carpet throughout the whole house. It never got clean but she vacuumed it all the time. I used to hum to the sound of the vacuum, trying to harmonize with the loud sounds. I think it somehow soothed me. I was driving home today and remembered there were two closets in that hallway. I’d completely forgotten them there. One was for the vacuum the other one I don’t remember but I think they had wooden sliding doors. The vacuum closet makes the same sound closing as my vacuum closet does now. I never noticed that before.

I remember the smell of the carpet, the smell of the house. I remember sitting in the office and the smell would sort of build up in that room when all the doors were closed. My brothers room was next door. I don’t remember what we did with it once he moved out. I do remember it was a man cave for her ex husband at one point. Beyond that, I don’t know what happened to it.

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I remember the CDs my brother bought my before my first semester in middle school when he told me it was his job to make sure I was cool. He got me Sublime and Ima Robot. I remember being in the auditorium after violin or improv classes listening to those CDs as I jumped around the wooden fold down chairs. I remember the smell of that place too. Very cold and tall.

I remember when my first real love in high school came to my house and wore my favorite pajama bottoms even though they were too short, I have no idea what became of those either. I had another dog at that point. She drowned a couple years later.

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Facebook has this weird ability to remind me of all these people and the lives they still lead. I forget that time goes on for them too. My best friend in high school has been messaging with me and it’s kind of like a lot of things have come full circle lately. Weirdest part was remembering that was 8 years ago when we got high and sat on a neighbors lawn looking at their blow up Christmas lights. I remember the pants I wore not fitting properly and a rather unfortunate camel toe. I remember when I had no hair and hats helped me stay warm. I pity you short haired men during these months. You must have endless supplies of beanies.

Please Explain

It has come to my attention that I am afraid of the female form. In my figure drawing class, it was the first time I’d ever drawn somebody naked. It was this uncharacteristically nonsexual sexual situation. It released from me a sense of childlike joy and as quickly as it arrived, it left me stunted and confused.

The first model was male, an older guy maybe in his mid forties. Suffice to say, it was a mesmerizing experience. I could feel my left and right brain flowing together and working to create all the angles and different bumps along each contour of the form. It was like dancing. I had my left arm raised in the air while my right arm glided across the page. From afar, I probably looked like I was going to tip over and I was using my left arm to balance.

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I came home and I traced my own body with love and care. In the mirror, I saw how the curvatures contrasted so well with the male form. I appreciated my wonderful figurative temple and I felt blessed to be so young and pretty. I knew a day would come where I would have drooping areas and skin that wasn’t quite as elastic but I didn’t care. In that moment, I felt gorgeous.

Fast forward, back in drawing class. This time, beautiful female model. Her breasts were perfectly full and round. Her nipples stood erect the entire time. Her shape was flawless (at least in my mind). I hadn’t realized what effect a landing strip of pubic hair actually did for a female. I’ve always been with guys who left a little bit of hair themselves but expressed how little they liked hair on me. I’d become accustomed to shaving entirely. I have never thought I would appreciate that particular triangle of dark hair. I noticed her soft curves and how soft every contour was and how flat her belly laid across her smooth abdominal wall. It was like watching a movie in real life.

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When it came to my drawings, my left and right brain were in constant conflict. They did not want to flow together to create a song, they warred it out in my head. My breathing changed and my anxiety rose. I pretty much hyperventilated from the pressure of having to recreate this beautiful shape across my paper. I had to take a break, step outside, and reevaluate what I was doing and I couldn’t figure it out. Then came a part where we focused on the torso and my drawing of her torso was exquisite. I mean, as good as it can get for a first time at anything at least.

But for some reason, her nakedness intimidated me.

Next class, another female model. This time she was svelter and lean. She wasn’t frail, but she was far from muscular. She had some sort of french/european accent and she wore a pink, silk robe. I had an easier time but it still didn’t work. I couldn’t look at her objectively like I could with that first session. I had trouble foreshortening, I had trouble measuring. There came a point where I was watching her there, frozen on the platform, and everything in my mind was evident. I could see the different spheres and shadows I could see it all and I knew in my mind I could draw her. As soon as I set my pencil down on the page, it was all wrong. It was like the life went out of my fingers. I stuck with it and left feeling disappointed. My proportions were wrong and everything was just wrong. It was heartbreaking.

Today we had a male model again and I danced across the page. There came a point where he started falling asleep as he stood and I had to start over several times. In those short periods of time I had left, it was like my brain could see all of the lines before I even began with my charcoal. In ten minutes, I had recreated the man in front of me. It was bewitching.

I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how I can go from complete abandon to complete focus and stifling control. My brain won’t listen to itself and I end up with this stiff, small cartoonish outline or it flows together in perfection and I have this awesome sketch in half the time it took my peers to get their’s together.

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Dear Universe,

Explain to me what I could possibly be afraid of.

Sincerely,
Your student