Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Second Unapology

During the past year I have had some incredibly "interesting" responses to my public thoughts on having depression and anxiety. Most of the responses are positive--and I'll be brave and say that most of the people who respond believe their response is positive.

People really, really, really enjoy giving unsolicited advice. Have I talked about this before? I mean, I thought I had. Except, after doing a little research, I know I haven't, because the world also responds SO TERRIBLY when I say it out loud. I have written at least three posts about advice and never published them simply because the backlash would be ridiculous.

I did, in fact, go back to one of those posts and try to edit it to be tactful and gracious, but I am seriously no longer feeling tactful or gracious about this. 

And.... I'm not apologizing anymore. ;) Y'all are grown ups now, you can handle it.

So I'll start by saying a few important things to remember:

There is a lot of information floating around about mental illness, and how it affects different people, and how you can best support them. In spite of this veritable library of informative articles, books, etc. on the subject, people (and by people I mean you, and me, and everyone in between) still have some misconceptions about mental illness and how to approach it. What I'm going to write today will address both of these issues in addition to how you can properly/appropriately offer love and support to your friends with any sort of mental illness.

You might find reading this tedious, but that's only because most of what you read about this issue is objective and non-specific. It deals with the general idea of mental illness and doesn't pertain to anyone you actually know. There's nothing wrong with general information, but in order to really be supportive you have to understand that everyone needs something different--additionally, you also have to overcome your own misconceptions about mental illness in your own special way.

The most common misconception I encounter is that any mental illness is voluntary. Uneducated individuals often believe that if a mentally ill person would only do "_________" or stop doing "______" they would surely be healed from their ailment(s.) The phrases "happiness is a choice" and "you're just making yourself anxious/depressed" are frequently heard, and are about as helpful as giving a baby a wristwatch to aid in the potty training process.

But to really hit the nail on the head I'm going to tell you exactly what people have told ME, specifically, in response to my mental illness.

"Have you tried losing weight?"
"You probably just don't drink enough water."
"You don't exercise enough."
"You need to read your Bible more."
"I have this great health product you should try!"
"Well, it could always be worse. Count your blessings."

And here is my response to that load of crap.

I have struggled with depression for more than half of my life, and with anxiety for probably my entire life without being aware of it. It has been an ongoing issue, regardless of my body size, regardless of the money in my bank account, regardless of how many hours of exercise I get each week, regardless of the amount of Bible verses I read or gallons of water I consume.  I am an avid lover of vegetables and fruits. I grew up eating homemade food and home-grown produce. I have taken a daily multivitamin (or 2, or 5) most of my adult life. I have a membership to a gym and both of my jobs require a great deal of prayer AND physical activity. I'm have an extremely active church life and my spiritual health is quite stable. I have done all these things, I DO all these things, and anxiety and depression are still something I have, they are still something I deal with. It is present in good times and bad.

So, no. I would not like to try your expensive and unnecessary health product.

No, I do not want to read the article you sent to me about becoming a raw foodist.

No, going to an extra prayer meeting is not the answer.

Getting a different translation of my Bible is not the answer.

Going on a mission trip to a third-world country is not the answer.

Eating more kale, doing a juice cleanse, or practicing yoga is not the answer.

But most importantly, taking your unsolicited advice is not the answer.*

I'm not sure when it started, but at some point we decided, culturally, that offering advice to someone is the best way to help them, no matter what the circumstances. If they don't ask for advice, it doesn't matter--give it to them anyways! I could go into all the different reasons it's harmful to give unsolicited advice, but I'll let ya'll google it. People hate unsolicited advice. I promise.

Personally, I hate it for a lot of reasons, but I'll give you the most important one.

I must learn how to ask for help when I need it.

I must, at all costs, try something myself. I must fail, and try again, and fail, and try again. It's how I learn. (I'll tell you a secret--it's how we all learn.) It's what I need. I need to figure things out for myself, but I also need to know when enough is enough, to know when to let go of my pride and say, "Help!" I need you to let me ask you for help, instead of allowing you to force it upon me before I'm ready for it.

And I know it's hard not to give people advice. Like I said, it's part of our culture. If we see someone struggling, we want to tell them how to fix it. But that's not your responsibility. Your answer is not their answer. Your solution is not their solution. What helps you will not help me.

And what helps me will not necessarily help you.

So let other people fail, if you can. Help them, if they accept. And instead of forcing your advice on them, offer them this phrase: "What kind of support do you need from me?"

The answers may surprise you.

*****A Brief Disclaimer*****

1.When I say "advice" I mean verbal advice about an idea/concept/situation. I am not talking about immediate, life-saving advice, such as: "Don't walk over there, it's full of poison ivy!" or "You should go to the hospital because you have a temperature of 105." So don't get ideas about playing devil's advocate and claiming that I don't want help ever in my life because I said "no advice."

2. I'm not saying that all advice is bad. The Bible tells us to "seek wise counsel" and I agree. However, not every situation merits the "seeking" of counsel and, in turn, not every situation merits the "giving" of counsel.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

No More Apologies

I have tried.

Over and over, with and without coffee, in the sunshine or the nighttime, I have tried.

Come, lord Jesus,
I have tried.

And the feelings come out but the words stay put, like there's nothing I could possibly say that would be considered an honest expression, or that would do justice to what I'm trying to convey. But I'll give it my best shot.

A year ago I was the most depressed I have been in many years. It is something I've dealt with for fifteen years this September, the worst of which was 2007-2008, with last winter in a close second. I've been considering that time in my life frequently because I'm approaching an interesting milestone: an entire year of being on antidepressant medication. 

Things have been going well. I will spare you the details of an entire year, for the sake of clarity and to save time, but believe me when I say that things have been going well.

I started listening to Christmas music on December 1st, but in the heat of the moment I forgot about that one song. And of course I was driving, over that exact same bridge, and in a flood of cold air and warbling voices I remembered last year.

Last year. Now my heart is / Returned to sister winter / Now my heart is / As cold as ice. Those lyrics washed over me and through me for an entire week, an entire year ago, and I drove over that bridge day after day and fought the urge with every breath not to drive off the bridge. A year ago, listening to the same angsty lyrics on repeat somehow helped me not careen into oncoming traffic, while also reminding me how badly I wanted to do just that.

Sure, it all sounds so dramatic now. But I said it then, and I'll say it now. As a teenager, I knew I could be overreacting simply because I was young and my emotions were often overwhelming. As an adult, with every imaginable support available, those feelings cannot be dismissed so easily.

And last year, in the midst of all that, I apologized. I said I was sorry for my behavior, although not for my feelings, because I didn't know how to handle myself. I spent so many years fighting these neurotic impulses, charging against my heart's desires to seek revenge or manipulate people or feign politeness just to be liked. I fought, and I lost, over and over. I was a sorry loser.

But now I'm done apologizing.

You see, before, I was fighting myself. I was fighting my dark side, the part of me that is vindictive and bitter and false. This is a part of all of us, it's human nature, but it is not always so loud.

I am no longer fighting myself. The darkest part of me still exists but it does not drown out all the other voices. Rather than a fight between my dark desires or good intentions, I am simply fighting for the truth. I am capable of sitting still and asking myself if my feelings are based on reality or fiction. I am capable of praying calmly at any time of day instead of screaming and crying to God because every moment is one of desperation.

So I can apologize for myself beforehand. I was not trying my best to be my best, was not trying to honor God with my life, because I spent all of my energy simply trying to be. 

In the aftermath, in my medicated life, I don't apologize--at least, I don't apologize for trying.

Some days I wake up and everything is fine. I am motivated. I don't have a headache. I go to work or go to the store and buy groceries, and I wake up after the first alarm and leaving the house doesn't require any mental exertion.

Other days it's more difficult. My medication often causes horrific nightmares, insomnia, or can make it nearly impossible for me to wake up. Sometimes I experience all three of those in one day. The nightmares can be especially difficult to shake off because they are very realistic, and thus waking up becomes work. I have to force myself out of bed, I have to pray for a forgetful mind in order to move on with my day, and at that point I have already lost time and must prepare for the potential anxiety of being late for events and the mental sluggishness I'll have later and of course... my favorite thing... trying to figure out how I'll explain my behavior to people.

How does an adult woman explain that she's late for church because she had a nightmare?

This is often the hardest part. Some people already know. Some friends understand my code words, the phrases that indicate I have recently struggled and need time to recuperate. However, there are still many who apparently don't get it --people who are insensitive to depression, don't understand it, and would respond badly if I said I was struggling.

And the truth is, I shouldn't even feel like I need to explain it to everyone. If I'm late for something, I shouldn't have to explain last night's terrible nightmare just so you won't think I'm lazy. If I bail on a responsibility (a decision that I do not make without a lot of thought), I shouldn't be afraid someone will chastise me publicly, or compare me to others.

When you dismiss my fears, when you call my trials "inconveniences," when you tell me other people are capable and they "have it worse," you are dismissing my entire journey. You are dismissing an entire year of trying to be the best of myself and managing the symptoms and side effects and using all my coping mechanisms. You are saying my attempts don't matter.

But even when I fail, because I fail often, my attempts do matter. For all of the fights I have fought, it matters most now that I try and keep trying and that I don't give up.

I communicate my efforts so that you don't assume I am ignoring my responsibilities entirely. I ask for help when I need it (another milestone.) I try to be honest, so you'll know what's going on, so that despite my failure others still feel respected and appreciated. I control my impulses and try not to be reactionary, and I think long and hard about decisions that affect other people.

For instance, when I brought another Christmas album into the car, I wanted to throw out that other CD. I wanted to take the Sufjan Stevens mix and toss it out into the icy air. I wanted to drive over it and hear it crackle. I wanted to smash it on the bridge that tormented me.

However, I cannot give it that much power. I will not be satisfied by simply destroying the thing that kept my depression in perpetual motion. "Trying" means more than just attempting to ignore the places I have been, the person I have been. I have to replace the bad with good.

So... I'm done apologizing for trying.

I might say, "Sorry I'm late!" but I won't say, "Sorry, I had a bad morning," unless I feel like you're going to show me some compassion and listen to my story.

If I'm struggling, I may tell you, "I'm sorry, I can't meet tonight," but won't say, "I'm sorry for bailing tonight, I'm the worst friend ever." I will not be self-deprecating when I'm really just practicing good self-care.

And in the next few days I'll make a new Christmas CD and throw out the old one, because I've thought about it for a handful of days, and I won't apologize. I won't be sorry.

Not even a little bit.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hunger & Surprise

There's an old saying--be careful what you wish for, because it might just come true. So far in life this has not held any relevance for me. Nothing I've ever wished for has ever come back to bite me. (Although, as a child enamored with WWII fiction I romanticized the idea of a country at war. For a little while I thought the "War on Terror" might have been my fault. Don't judge me, I was 13.) 

In any case, I have seldom feared wishing or hoping for something simply because I feared receiving that thing might be bad. I have, however, feared hoping or wishing for something because the prolonged absence of my desire would be altogether too painful. When you hunger for something so deeply it consumes all your thoughts, being denied can bring only destruction. 

This is one of the truest sorrows in life. We dare not to hope, for fear our hopes will be crushed. We stuff our hope in pockets and hide it in closets and bury it in the backyard where it can't be found. Or worse, we hold our hope in shaking palms and then we crush it ourselves, just so someone else won't do it first. 

And yet, that thing we hope for, that thing we hunger for, cannot always be neglected.

And all of this was on my mind 2 weeks ago when I went to see my obgyn. 

It was  a routine supposed to be a routine visit. It had been rescheduled once already, like most of my visits to the obgyn. When I arrived I was informed I would need to get into a paper gown and wait, but the doctor wasn't sure what procedure she was doing yet. I brushed off my confusion and got into the paper gown, only for the nurse to come back and tell me they needed to do another test first and so I got out of the paper gown and back into my clothes. 

When I returned, the nurse had moved my belongings to a different exam room and said cheerfully, "The doctor wants to redo the EMB so I have some paperwork for you to sign. Then you can get back into the gown."

I was halfway through my signature when I realized EMB meant endometrial biopsy. 

Let me be honest: I had been hoping I was pregnant, and that I just didn't know it yet. I want motherhood so desperately that I am willing to suffer through a surprise at the doctor's office. I hate surprises, I am terrible at surprises, but I would welcome such a wonderful surprise if it meant my heart's desire would be satisfied. 

But they had already done that test. I was not pregnant. I could not be pregnant if they were doing a biopsy--a biopsy I had not prepared for. Usually I would take some painkillers beforehand and plan something relaxing afterwards to distract me from the pain. None of that happened.

The doctor came in, discussed the risks involved, completed the procedure, and all the while I lay there feeling completely enraged as my hope slowly died. 

Still, while I had hungered and hoped for a surprise pregnancy, there was another part of me, a logical part of me, that wanted to know if the abnormal cells would return. It had been almost a year since my last biopsy and as I continue to not be pregnant I can't help but wonder if there's a recurring problem with me.

There isn't, at least not a definitive one. The results were all negative--a blessing, for sure!--but they give me no answers about my unexplained infertility. 

So I have been pondering deeply, as introverted nerds like myself often do, about my hope and my expectations and how the element of surprise is so conflicting for me. 

I have never reacted badly to a surprise. Yes, I was full of anger in the doctor's office, but I didn't show it. I could have said I wouldn't do it, I could have thrown a fit and ripped apart that stupid paper gown, but I didn't. I simply signed my name and put on the gown and tossed the paper towel blanket over my knees. I cooperated. I said I was fine. I didn't ask any questions. 

I believe my fear of surprise is not in the surprise itself, but that I will have to be dishonest in response to the surprise. Kind of like when someone gives you a terrible gift. "Oh, thank you, I love sweaters with embroidered geese!" What I really hate is not the surprise, but the politeness required of me afterwards. 

In light of this realization, I have been thinking about other situations in which I claimed to be afraid of surprises, afraid of not being prepared or not getting what I hope for, when in reality I am simply afraid of who I will be in the middle of that surprise. The best and most recent example I have is my women's huddle.

My church calls Bible studies/small groups "Huddles." I think it's an endearing and intimate title. It brings to mind images of friends huddling together around a fire, or huddling together for protection, or huddling in order to share a secret and then giggle quietly about it. It covers all the different aspects that I often found so absent in other Bible studies--it gives space for vulnerability and intimacy and true connection with others. 

However, I loved the name first and the experience second. I completely avoided the first huddle that was available to me. It was nearby, and people offered me rides, and I was even part of the group-text sent out each week, but I didn't go even once. I have a combination of good reasons for why I never went, but mostly it just didn't feel right. 

And then a few months ago a women's huddle was going through a transition period, and I was asked to join their group. 

This was a transformative moment for me, for several reasons. To begin, I have sought and hoped and hungered so long for a church like mine that the mere existence of Christian Neighbors Church is truly an answer to prayer. Second, I was keenly reminded that I had beloved friends in this church, and they wanted me.

But I was still my introverted self. I was still afraid of being surprised. I was still uncertain about who I would be in that setting, that intimate and huddled environment that emotionally seemed warm and inviting but caused me mental anxiety. As the first meeting approached my enthusiasm waned and fear had its way with me. What if I came across too strong? What if I said too much? What if I said too little? What if it was boring? What if the thing I hope for is denied and I am crushed by disappointment?

The day we finally met I had been fighting the urge to cancel completely. My personal experiences were that tainted, and therefore my fear of the surprise--or who I would be in the wake of the surprise--was that much stronger. 

And then I didn't cancel. And then we met. And then we spent an evening devouring each other's words and stories. There was no awkwardness. There was no fear. I was not anxious, and I was not polite, and I didn't say with insincerity, "Oooh, I had a great time!" 

The last several months of our meetings have been such a rich blessing in my life. As we grow closer to God and to each other through our conversations, I am continually in awe. I believed I was hoping for a non-awkward Bible study group, but what I was truly hoping and hunger for what a deep connection with other women.

In the same way that I believed I was only hoping for a surprise pregnancy, but the surprise I received was also something I needed.

I am reminded that sometimes what we hope for is a surprise. And sometimes the surprise is what satisfies our hunger. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 30 {A Shameful Event}

The final day of National Poetry Month has arrived. Thank you all for reading my poems, even if they aren't easily understood or if they seem melodramatic. (Some of them are. Oh well.) While I enjoy sharing my poems with others the process is really an internal, reflective one. It gives me a perspective on myself and the person I have been, the writer I have been, over the last 12 months. Sharing that process with you, whoever you are, takes a great deal of vulnerability. Perhaps in years to come I will explain more. I will describe the context of the poem. I'll tell you who I was then and who I've become and how writing said poem changed me. We'll see.

For now, enjoy the final poem.

A Shameful Event
April 30, 2016

It doesn't matter
that it's happened before,
a perpetual frustration
of artistic endeavor,
a shameful event
that we all somehow
succumb to
in unfocused moments.
But I am resolved.
I have arranged
this sacred space
and settled myself
in the middle
of the chaos,
and no matter what
happened before,
and no matter what
happens next,
I will not
under any circumstance
dip my paintbrush in my tea.

Friday, April 29, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 29 {disappointment}

March 14, 2016 

rusted and singed
unshackled, unhinged
forged then forgotten
embraced then forsaken
they bear your true name
but these are old chains
and they will break away
if you let them

Thursday, April 28, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 28 {Tell Me}

Tell Me
April 25, 2016

Don't tell me I can do it.
Don't tell me
that you believe in me.
Don't tell me
I am capable,
I am worthy,
I am worth it.
Don't tell me
because when you do
I'm reminded
of all the voices
that ever said I can't,
that ever said I'm not,
that ever said
anything less
--even if the voice
was mine--
and I weep
in the recollection
and fall down inside myself
and whatever it is
I'm doing,
I could do,
I'm capable of
and worthy of
I will stop.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 27 {The Reward}

The Reward
April 25, 2016

Resist the temptation
to satisfy your desire
with fires that die
and colors that fade
and stones
which will not gleam
as time marches.

Prepare your body
to suffer
and your soul
to lay down in the road
because it may be
or it may be
but you don't know what's coming.

And there may be daylight
when you feel it in your bones
or a final dusk
in the moment you arrive
but there is an end.

So prepare the inside
like an empty vessel
to be filled
and prepare the outside
like a door to welcome in
that calling night
or beckoning day
whichever mercy gives
as the reward.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 26 {Deliverance}

April 24, 2016

Thoughts have no direction.
One cannot send them
east, or west, or downstream.
They are not passed between bodies
like ethereal heartsicknesses,
because they possess no compasses
or internal maps for guidance
and will never reach the soul
for which you so deeply think.
But somehow, despite my wandering,
ages of prayers are filtered through
my stumbling, selfish mind
and find their way to the one
who inspires my human questions
and gives me divine answers.
To what benefit could I mail thoughts,
when nothing waits
on the other side
to even receive them?

Monday, April 25, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 25 {Crooked Doll}

Crooked Doll
March 5, 2016 

born under and
living inside the shadow
of a crooked doll

I shrunk.

she was so beautiful
with silky hair
and brown eyes

dismissing me.

her secret broken heart
tucked deep inside
cotton and porcelain

I sought.

wanting to hold it
I tried just to hold her
but would have to break her


Sunday, April 24, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 24 {Dedication}

April 19, 2016

fresh loss
salted tongue
every day

endless words
stirred pot

distant heart
taking advantage
ending the struggle

stinging reminders
suddenly numb


Saturday, April 23, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 23 {Siren}

April 17, 2016

Some storms, they say,
come without thunder,
without lightning to brighten the sky.
They are dimmed rage,
quieted fury,
cresting in the clouds passing by.

You are woken before daylight
to witness the angry heavens
and instantly feel the urge to move.
And in a moment every failure
is revived within your body
like a disturbed beast with something to prove.

You feel the waking animal
beating like a drum,
roaring like a song inside your chest.
It is electric,
it is fire,
it is a siren that will not rest.

Outside the window
the storm is drawing closer
from a long-neglected horizon.
You wonder where to run to,
which path might set you free,
or if it's the one you've already chosen.

If you must shift
between here or there
will you break or will you bend?
If you must move,
to find life outside the storm,
will that motion contract or expand?
If you survive
beyond the storm
will you be silent or find the will to speak?
Will you find your freedom
by fighting off this darkness
or just escape it by being too weak?

There is an answer
waiting like a shadow
to be discovered on the other side.
You can run for what's waiting,
or turn away from its meaning,
but such a storm will not let you hide.

Friday, April 22, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 22 {The Second Dream}

The Second Dream
June 2, 2015

How countless are the nights
I made wishes without words
in distant, cloudless skies
on dying, clueless stars.
How deep the longing
I carry, on my own,
toward such a destination
with harbored hopes,
with heart-filled hatred,
with a final
hesitant hallelujah.
They say you care
for the weary traveler
and the motherless child,
but see my barren feet
on this broken path
and consider caring for
the childless mother.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 21 {Carried Away}

Carried Away
March 30, 2016

This is freshwater on old sand,
lake waves on somber driftwood,
windswept sunshine on winter skin
and it will smooth out all your rough edges.
You are not too sharp for secrets,
you are not too dull to be carried away,
and so the water calls out to you
and asks you to be brave
in spite of the dusky, cold, depths
soaking you to the bone.
Where the water once was blue
so were you, too dark to touch,
and now all the sand is unsettled
like these thoughts, and out tumble
words in the shapes of sea shells,
small but strong, rugged and beautiful.
Everything here was once something else.
Once a tree, once a bottle, once a brick--
all fragments of former wonders,
casting shadows on who you used to be.
Don't be afraid of the waves.
They will not swallow you,
only carry you to another shore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 20 {Notes on not being set free}

Notes on not being set free
January 26, 2016 

I am given grace
You pass over me
with white smiles
but black thoughts
hover near,
It seems
you extend mercy
only when
I am within reach.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 19 {The Sound (Just)}

The Sound (Just)
September 30, 2015

We passed 300 midnights
just awake within the sound.
I can barely remember it anymore–
the chilling alertness I felt
as that serendipitous chime
resonated among books and silence.
I just don’t have the energy.
What was a hopeful melody
has become a foreign dissonance,
a flawed note in a forgotten voice,
or perhaps above all things
just a noise.

Monday, April 18, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 18 {An excerpt}

Excerpt from Dancing Elves & Elephants
December 1, 2015

I used to lie awake and wonder
if I would ever forgive her.
Now I like awake and wonder
if she’ll forgive me, even though
all I did was try
to let her go.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 17 {Unrelenting}

January 24, 2016

We are aligned
but not alike.
Our bones
are our bonds
and our flesh
meets with finesse
like unrelenting atoms
of the same molecule.
And so we are one.

But where he sees danger
I envision bliss
and when his hand falters
mine makes a fist.

So if you scorn him
you scorn me.
If he falls
under your judgement
I feel it more deeply.

And in the moment
you believe
you can walk away
I will find you
on a coward’s path
and you’ll find
no hesitation
in my wrath.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 16 {Alki}

Another favorite. A little vulnerability, here, but I feel like it might be worth it.

October 24, 2015
Edited March 31, 2016

Summers, two decades past, we came here
as children, we fought on the rocks,
and it was here my sense of belonging
disappeared among miles of salted sand.
The loss is still fresh on my tongue,
the sting of sharp boulders on scabby knees
lingering in photographs where we squint
upwards, away from the water, towards
some freedom we never quite possess.

Now at other precipices we trundle to the shore,
gathering our wits, worries and regrets around
seven smoke clouds, fistfuls of chai and Pike Place brew.
Now there is no condemnation here under
the seductively gray skies, cloudy and still.
I am tired of resenting you for your immense guilt,
the things you feel so deeply and do not say.

Comprehension came at the cement steps where
you smiled as I collected fragmented shells,
white and smoothed by a life made at sea.
You said this was not the ocean but I said
this is my ocean, the first part I ever knew.
Such is the current and wave of my life,
that I can never get back to the real thing,
and so I will take what I can get from
the sky, the horizon, this conversation.

Friday, April 15, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 15 {If You Ask Me}

If You Ask Me
February 7, 2016 

Boulders make the rocks feel small
but just a stone made a giant fall
and in our recent years you’ve fallen
quite hard.

Never altered my largest love
or tossed curses at you from above
’cause I always knew the change
would be your heart.

I am the best of what
you need me to be.
I will promise to stay
if you ask me.

My arrival was in perfect time
to take your world and make it mine
like a queen who needs a kingdom
to reign.

Until you realized, counting battle scars,
the throne and crown were always ours,
to pass around until the other was
strong again.

I am the best of what
you need me to be.
I will promise to stay
if you ask me.

So ask me in confidence on your own
if I’ll wear the crown while you take the throne,
after all these years at war with
each other.

And ask me in silence when all is right
and tell me in the middle of every fight
after all I can’t be replaced by

I am the best of what
you need me to be.
I will promise to stay
if you ask me.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

NPm 2016: Day 14 {Leap Year}

Leap Year
February 29, 2016

how fortunate to dismiss the wailing memory
of that first broken promise presented to me

how fortunate not to linger every single year
on the thing that nearly kept us from reaching here

how fortunate to forget the most painful of days
when innocence was crushed and faith unmade

how fortunate not to ruminate on such death
and finally find, in the wake, love takes another breath

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 13 {The Unbound}

The Unbound
January 26, 2016 

You meet me on the page.
You tuck in my rage,
kept in trembling knuckles
and gasping breath that buckles
in seconds of silence
between composure
and when all raptures

I’ve never been subdued like this.
I break myself inside each kiss,
hoping beyond measure
for divinity’s given treasure
like a lost love
with thoughts blurred
among these foreign words

We forge the unwritten whole.
We are wild on the unbound scroll,
as foxes in the forest’s song
fleeing some chance gone wrong
yet still holding
a heart strong as stone
beside the truth of a known

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 12 {Personal Effects}

A slightly comical reflection from my first week taking antidepressants. Not meant to be idolizing antidepressants. I wrote it while laughing (and feeling dizzy, among other things.)

Personal Effects
December 15, 2015

This is an ode
to vertigo
and no appetite
and sleeping
with no blankets.
We bow to thee
no appetite,
no blankets.
We place you on the pedestal
above the altar
where you slew
the ravenous,
and we would lift our hands in praise
if only the world
would stop spinning.
Maybe we should
eat something or
go back to bed.

Monday, April 11, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 11 {You & You & You & Me}

This is one of my favorite poems from the last several years. Just an FYI.

You & You & You & Me
August 24, 2015

The fondest memory collected
whistled among blades of grass
and whispered to shooting stars,
it sailed along slanted pulse-points
and swooned under the moon,
and from a life of savored moments,
this one so
solitary and fragmented
goes on uncaptured,
except in these words.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 10 {Advent}

December 12, 2015

In this season we should be hoping,
waiting for your arrival,
singing bright into the long nights,
lighting candles in anticipation
of our hearts’ greatest longing.
But my heart is cold as ice
and it knows you’ve already come,
it knows that you are here and so
as the walls press in around me
and the darkness lowers into me
like a corpse into the grave
I am already in mourning.
I am not asking you to come
but begging you
from the shadows.
Don’t leave me,
and don’t let me go.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 9 {I Know}

I Know
September 30, 2015
Edited March 31, 2016

This is an excavation
of broken soul splinters
which rise daily from a grave
of ghosted words and lost meanings.
A lifetime ago
you knew
that I didn’t need your light
and I didn’t need your fire
for pneumatic revival
or survival beyond 3 a.m.
despite my panicked whispers
into that welcoming darkness–
that darkness which affirmed
my suffocating cries of bewilderment.
How could I not need light?
How could I not need fire?
Was it yours, monumentally,
which you could not relinquish
or were all the brilliant beacons of the world
somehow exclusive and untouchable?
When we reached 4 a.m.,
belief was tantamount to sorrow,
my grief peaking with such severity
you expressed quiet understanding.
“I know,” you said, and told me
to make paintings. You told me
to burn bridges and move mountains
and a dusty arsenal of other tasks
that all require
or fire.

Friday, April 8, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 8 {Santa Barbara County Area Code}

Santa Barbara County Area Code
September 7, 2015

In that year
between the lights
between two fires
I kept a notebook in my car
next to my camera
so I could write
and drive
and take pictures
of the sunset.
It used to carry directions
to a friend’s wedding
in Missouri
and several lists
of gifts to buy
for people who no longer
speak to me.
And now the first page
holds only the parts of a poem
where I scrawled
“trees the color of
trees the color of
over and over, until I said
“sky smells like snow”
“leaves like shadows”
and then a scribble
and a phone number
which must be yours
because it was probably
that desolate January
when we had the ice storm
and you let me call
because I thought
I would die
without fire.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 7 {That Thing We Thought We Wanted}

That Thing We Thought We Wanted 
[Original Title: Cincinnati]
August 30, 2015

Turned tables, upturned boxes
of a dream, maudlin and dusty,
are all just shadows of younger runners
with longer springs in their steps.
What will I do when you’re gone?
Every hour will while and wander
if you go and I stay; it’s not the same.
Goodbying embraces and curbside waves
were my skillset, my neurotic niche.
But left behind, perhaps not helplessly,
yet so stationary and solitary
as plates climb like mountaineers,
as dust sweeps over my world
and every space you touched,
will leave me scattered, scarce.
Mirrored memories and reactions
flit over unfilled calendars with
events unwritten and trips unplanned
but their possibilities float like ghosts,
hovering and haunting each day
that might find me lost without you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 6 {Etcetera}

August 21, 2015

I have started with myself
working from the ground up
where the blistered feet,
these weakened ankles you say,
won’t carry me.
And I know I keep saying
I can carry so much
I can hold so much.

It’s because you’ve never carried
anything so desperately needing
to be held onto.

And I know I’ll keep carrying
all the things I am holding
-burdens or otherwise-
even if
you say I can’t.

Because it’s this, or
I’ll just wear them
as perpetual bruises
or open wounds
or ragged scars
in this flesh you call
weak and unused.

Because it’s this, or
I’ll become them,
closer than a mask
and tighter than a cape,
more like a second skin of
all the otherness of myself
I have refused to possess.

I am beautiful and strong
not because I am not scarred
but because I choose to hold
the etcetera of my life
and carry it with me
until I know what I’ve been
carrying it for.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 5 {Unrelinquishing}

August 19, 2015

Favored seasons are flavored yet
by these unrelinquishing regrets,
where the cider cups
and the appled stuff
trip us on the post-summer steps.

Each prematurely fallen leaf
and misplaced ad for Halloween
wither within
my chest like a bin
full of discarded flowers, forever unseen.

And the wilted petals blossom out
from silent shivers to shaking shouts,
where a bright affection
replaced by winter’s inflection,
redeemed only when the wind is out.

I’ll never be ready for the fall.
I long to go back and absorb it all
before sorrow unlocked
like an autumnal clock
making my large joys small.

Monday, April 4, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 4 {Darkness and flesh}

Darkness and flesh
July 31, 2015
For a friend.

This is the thing you would have understood.
The whole world howls against me,
it has a mouth full of malice and its fangs
destroy my body, limb by limb.
You understood darkness and flesh.
You felt the shadows of death upon you
and rose up to meet them like a warrior.
How did I not learn these things from you
until now? Without knowing, without you,
for one year, one month, and thirteen days.
In your absence I have been ravaged
by claws of doubt, by whispers of fear;
I have faced the edge of the world
and hoped only to know
what you say waits on the other side.
And I could tell myself what you would say,
I could hold myself as you would, calmly.
I could love myself as you would love me
but all I have left
are the echoes of reminders,
the ghosts of sacred memories,
the lingering spark of a flame
which you gave to me
to light the world.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 3 {Little Red Boat, Pt. 2}

Reaching the Other Side (Little Red Boat, Pt. 2)
July 30, 2015

When she reached the other side
she climbed grassy hills in the rain,
she touched time and scaled towers
but the other side
seemed to be nowhere.
And when she came out of nowhere
on the underside of the other side
like a flower growing backwards
to see the earth it came from
she still got stuck
trying to find her way.
And she asked me,
which is better.
To stay, or to try?
Stay, try, stay, try.
I got her into the boat,
the boat into the water,
and when I got her to cross
she conquered every fear.
But a life of finality
has led her to believe that
even when nothing is wrong
the choice she makes
must be right.
Even when nothing is divided
she tries to choose a side.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

NPM 2016: Day 2 {Firebreath}

Written April 2, 2016 - based on an original piece of writing from July 11, 2015

No story can prepare
or song divulge the truth
of the creatures we admire
in naivety or youth.
Whether naturally sweet
or sinister by choice
they can silence a life
and stifle a voice.
I have nurtured the eggs
and tendered my soul
toward their disposition
whether gentle or cruel.
But it will not matter
when they finally crack
if love is their birthright
or if that's what they lack.
I can claim this hope
but I would be a liar
because this life is a dragon
and all dragons breathe fire.

Friday, April 1, 2016

National Poetry Month 2016: Day 1,and an Introduction

Happy National Poetry Month! This is, by far, one of my most beloved times of the year. It's a burst of joy and inspiration between Christmastime and my anniversary. (Yes, I use my anniversary for artistic adventures. Deal with it.) As usual I will be posting on each day of April, using a combination of poems I've written during the last year (May 2015 - March 2016) and some written the day-of or perhaps just more recently. I will include the poem's original date and explain if it has been edited since then--or not. I may occasionally include personal art with the poems.


March 31, 2016

her soul was a tapestry
woven by the twilight and
embroidered with fire.
when the world split
it was as if
blackened smoke lifted
from a tear in the fabric.
all the stars shifted
to watch her unfolding,
to understand
how creases fade
and edges fray
so beautiful and slow.
and once more they turned
with old and brilliant light
to see his weathered hands
take her corner by corner,
gathering her in,
healing thread by thread
with enough colors
to cover the sky.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A New Season

I've been absent from the blog for over three months, so it's safe to say a new post is long overdue. Of course, you're all in luck, because it's almost my favorite month of the year: April! And we all know what that means. (In case you've forgotten, April is National Poetry Month, which equals a post/poem for every single day.)


Before I prepare you all for the wonder and joy of NPM, I should give some  updates, since my last post was somber--for good reason--and slightly ominous. I re-read it very briefly, to review my state of mind at the time, and couldn't get through it because things have certainly changed since then.

I'm not the first person on the internet to divulge details about depression and anxiety. I know that. I didn't expect to get an onslaught of sympathetic notes or anything. But part of the tragedy of depression is that we so often, for a multitude of reasons, feel as if our depressed state is something to be hidden or dismissed. I have been among those secretive people, deciding that I am fine and behaving as if I am fine to the best of my ability until I simply can't handle it anymore. I chose to express myself in a blog because it seemed to be the most honest way of admitting I needed assistance and also explaining why I had to make some difficult choices.

In any case, it has been an interesting three months.

For the first time since I was 19 I started an antidepressant. The first round was fascinating, especially the first week. I considered blogging the first week to talk about my extreme exhaustion due to the medication and wanted desperately to talk about my vivid dreams. My favorite side effect is definitely the vivid dreams. I've written previously about how realistic my dreams are, but these are on a whole new plane of fantasy. Usually I'm able to tell myself while dreaming if something is real or not--for instance, if something really terrible has happened or I'm scared, I can calm myself down and convince myself that it's not real and eventually I will wake up. But not anymore. Unicorns? Totally real in my dreams. Rainbows? They actually taste delicious. And don't get me started on the people I've dreamed about. Basically, I have no way to differentiate between subconscious concepts or reality. 

Other than the dreams, the exhaustion, and the incessant jaw-breaking yawns, it has ultimately been a successful experience. 

I can't describe to you the joy of being physically calm and mentally calm at the same time. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of stressful things in my life and moments filled with anxiety, but they no longer overwhelm my body and brain. I am completely astounded that I have not had any serious side effects and am thankful that this treatment is actually available to me.

Due to this blessing, as strange as it may be to call it a blessing, I have felt more like myself than I have in years. I have been painting a lot. (Sidenote: I redid the blog's design, and the background is one of my fun watercolors!) I have been able to read and draw and develop relationships new and old. I have been able to focus on the good things and handle the bad things.

I'm not going to say I'm happy. Happiness is a temporary, insignificant feeling. My goal is not to be happy. My goal is the ability to find contentment in every circumstance.

Of course, sometimes that circumstance involves going to the beach... and feeling happy.

More later. The next time I write here, it will be a poem. The time after that, it will also be a poem. Because National Poetry Month is coming. So watch out. ;)