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“Making My List”

October 7, 2012

I know what I want for my birthday:
one slice of happiness topped with compliments
instead of strawberries,
lit by affection
instead of candles that are so easily blown out.
I know what I want for Christmas:
the gift of undivided attention wrapped in kindness
instead of paper,
slid into a cold, untouched place in my heart                                                                                               instead of under a tree,                                                                                                                           illuminated by love                                                                                                                                       instead of lights that spend months in the attic.

I see now that it’s never too soon to have hope, to look for dawn in the middle of the darkness.
I see now that it’s important to ask for hard things, to block the uncommitted with a test of caskets.
I see now that even a silent request can be heard.

And I know what I want.

“Unrequited”

October 7, 2012

The joys we are not allowed become our most treasured idols
Stored in dark, dusty corners
Awaiting recognition and secret homage
That is always paid when other eyes are absent.
Knees bent, head bowed, arms clasped in reverence
As well as desperation
We whisper anxious prayers

To a god fortified with our own might

As well as self-delusion.

We know better than to expect answers.

The Making of a Woman

March 1, 2012

Fat girls don’t get asked out on dates?

I know I usually start my blog posts with blanket statements that I attempt to systematically prove (sometimes in hyperbolic fashion), but the above remains a question for me because it is attached more to a personal feeling that I have than anything I substantiate through rhetoric.

I firmly believe that God through the universe tries to teach us lessons. We, being hard-headed and too proud to bend, don’t always learn our lesson. God, being wise and patient, continues to educate us. More often than not, we learn false lessons; but I will get to that point in a moment.

When I was in college, there was this guy I sorta liked. I didn’t like him out of passion or some youthful desire for romance, but I just thought he and I could possibly be more than friends. I thought he sorta liked me too, until I overheard him commenting to a mutual friend of ours about how much weight I had gained and how he pretty much wasn’t interested. Imagine my surprise as I stood outside that dorm room door. I pretended not to have heard, but those words are stored in my self-esteem chest under a category labeled “worthless.”

And I asked myself, what should I be learning from this?

When I was a teenager, some girls at my church had been invited to participate in some sort of modeling group. I remember one Wednesday night after church, I happened upon them discussing how exciting the prospect of modeling was. I stood in their circle and listened silently as the girls who were already involved detailed the “requirements” and extended invitations to the ones they felt qualified. I was not invited. That selection process is stored in my self-esteem chest under a category labeled “if you were pretty…”

And I asked myself, what lesson am I taking away from this moment?

At my grandmother’s house one summer, my cousin approached me as I came in from outside. She told me that her friend from school had just called because he drove by earlier. He had seen me in the yard, and because he did not recognize me, he wanted to know who I was. My cousin told him. His response to the news that I was her younger cousin she offered to me with a smile: “Thickety thick thick!” I did not take that as a compliment. I filed that incident under “shame.”

I still go back in my mind’s eye and look for the true lesson.

I could give you more stories, but I don’t think they would serve to prove my point any more or less. Combine all that with the fact that I’m really not comfortable revealing how long it’s been since I’ve been asked out on a real date- one that wasn’t dutch or in some way initiated by me, and you might be able to understand why I feel like the would-be American Idol contestant who really can’t sing, but doesn’t know it until Simon, a cold stranger, reveals it.

A while ago, I sat down at Jason’s Deli with my best friend, and we talked for a bit about things we both experienced growing up. She asked me if I ever liked any of the guys from our church. I sat there, and ran down the list in my mind before finally confessing that I never had a crush on any of them. When she pressed me as to why, I realized and shared that I never thought I ever stood a chance. I never thought that a relationship with any of those guys was a real possibility for me.

When I sit down and tally up the score, I realize that my life experiences have done more to affirm my deepest fears and insecurities than wash them away. I see more and more how my general weariness with being put down has resulted in fireproof fortifications, impossible to overcome. I feel that it would be foolish of me to say, “Oh that guy from college was such a jerk!” and “Oh those girls from church were so mean and hurtful,” when the consistency of their words combine to form a single truth. I am the creature being observed, and the observations are at least precise if not accurate to begin with.

I know I should not see myself in terms of my “deficiencies.” Especially not the ones superimposed onto my person by a system that seeks to categorize women simply and superficially. I certainly counsel my friends and my students to reject this line of thinking, but how I fail to counsel myself!

I guess I’ll always wonder about the guy who rejected me, at least in part, because of my weight as well as the ones who left before and those who didn’t stay after. I guess I’ll always fear that some random stranger will see me in passing and make me the brunt of some unkind joke, generating from laughter an image of me not easily erased or shaken from the grasp of memory.

I feel that in all of this, I have learned valuable lessons about how to treat people, about how fragile people people are, how a few words can haunt like a thousands wraiths. And perhaps, all of that other stuff was just a necessary byproduct or unintended learning that also taught me humility in a strange and uncomfortable way.

What is needed to make a woman? Years of hurt, silent tears, unrecognized accomplishments, unrealized dreams, hope in spite impossibility, determination in spite of failure, sometimes success, sometimes a new dress, everyday a laugh, a balance of rejection and hugs, a few unanswered questions mixed with true certainties, a song that bursts into flame like a candle against the darkness…? Before we know what finally went into it all, we are fully here, and we cannot remember a time when this was not the case.

Epitaph

December 8, 2011

“Epitaph(s)”

I could not make him love me.

And the rust of that knowledge enveloped my heart

Like the cloth of a single color.

Dull. Impenetrable. Damp.

I could not open my heart again.

The vault of my feelings was sealed by his farewell

like an ancient tomb.

Overgrown. Untended. Secluded.

I could not make him love me.

And I fear that I shall always be judged- for this

eternally punished.

Repentant. Unforgiven. Banished.

I cannot forget him.

My heart replays his eyes unblinking.

Intense. Focused. Turned from me.

The Just Friends Phenomenon

November 25, 2011

I think the natural world is governed by principles- a set of laws that, no matter who you are or where you are, are always in effect and being enforced.

Gravity. Karma. No good deed goes unpunished. Any tool dropped, while repairing a car, will roll underneath to the exact center. A penny saved is not worth very much. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Any broken object, while being demonstrated for the repairman, will work perfectly. Nature always sides with the hidden flaw. And never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

Just to name a few.

But there is another law. The Law of Just Friends. The Law of Just Friends states that if you feel that you are ready for a relationship, the male with whom you have the most contact will take absolutely no romantic interest in you. Once the principle comes into effect, there is no way to back out. You will forever, young single, be one of the guys. Let me make this clear, as a victim of the cruelty of this principle, I can’t give you any advice on avoiding it or reversing it. All I can do is tell you the clear signs.

1. You pay no special attention to what you wear.

2. Shaving your legs is optional.

3. There is a complete and total absence of butterflies or excitement.

4. You both put your hands in your pockets.

5. You notice that he double dips.

6. You’re more excited about the food, movie, or performance than you are about the conversation that is supposed to take place.

7. He never compliments you.

8. Your phishing expedtion for a compliment turns up little to nothing.

9. Christian side-hug. Enough said.

10. All phone conversations end with “Well…..okay….bye.”

The Daughter You Had

August 13, 2011

“The Daughter You Had”

Often felt stupid.

Stuffed all of her dreams in a vase on her bookshelf,

but not before she tore the paper into a thousand little pieces.

A confetti of misshapen dreams.

Often felt inadequate.

Learned at a tender age that abstaining prevented failure.

Kept a solitary love letter folded in the foot of an old shoe

and prayed it was genuine, knowing it was not.

Often thought that being good enough was an intrinsic quality

she did not possess.

Had a small cylindrical hole in her heart that made her wince with pain

every time she breathed.

The daughter you had

never amounted to much.

Never knew what to do next. Crossed her fingers often.

Ran out of tears before thirty.

Sat quietly in drought dry self-pity.

The daughter you had

died alone.

The Daughter You Never Had

August 13, 2011

“The Daughter You Never Had”

Always saw her glass as being at least half full,

but often her cup overflowed with the crystalline, life affirming liquid of your affection.

Had  a small chest where she kept your many compliments

on rectangular slices of paper, folded, neatly creased, and tightly pressed in place.

Always smiled and knew quite well the intangible joy that came

when you spoke to her of her future.

Had an unlocked notebook beneath her bedside table that contained a long list

of her many dreams and aspirations, prioritized and carefully written line by line.

Never hid her failure from you. Never feared the loss of your support.

Never questioned herself. Never backed away from a challenge.

Always found a way to succeed.  

The daughter you never had

grew up beautifully and became the correction of your every mistake

the hope of your every endeavor

and the heir of  your every good quality.

Perfect. Just Perfect

was the daughter you never had.

Whoever She Is That Gets To Love You

August 10, 2011

Whoever she is that gets to love you

Her words are not the shy children that tug on slacks
And hide behind thighs.
Her looks are not the furtive glances of a stranger.
She meets your gaze with an intensity that calls you.
You always answer her.
Her footsteps, in the periphery of your vision
Or the corridor of your heart,
Do not need explanation or excuse
So bold is she who gets to love you.

Her garments vermillion are not the subtle winks
Of courtesans in courtyards.
Her scarves silk are not ropes of seduction.
She signals you with the slight toss of her chin.
You always see her.
Her body draped in rags, robes, or rubies
Does not want for your approval.
So confident is she who gets to love you.

Whoever she is
And from whatever continent
And from across whatever sea, or lake, or stream
I envy her.
Whoever she is that gets to love you.

Love Letters

July 22, 2011

The world is often a place of useless criticism. People don’t know what they’re talking about. On the rare occasion that they do know, they ramble on endlessly. There’s only one thing better than knowing something and that’s knowing that you know something. Sadly, there is nothing more annoying…

In a world where there will always be opposition, there should also be a place where there will always be acceptance. I looked around for such a paradise and came up short. We humans are so fickle. Hopelessly in love one moment and then at total odds the next. We don’t mean to be so completely ridiculous, but we can’t help but be carried off by the hurricane winds of our wild, often unchecked emotions.

I do not exclude myself from this criticism.

And that’s why I started writing love letters to the people I love (or think I love!) and posting them.

When the rain beats hard and cold against your heart. Or when the sun scorches dry every dream you ever dreamt. When all manner of disaster and calamity befall you slowly or suddenly, may there always be a place (even it’s just this cyberspace) where you can find shelter and shade. A respite against the ruthlessness and recklessness of the world that uses the very ones it claims to love. If not here, may you find your name on a list of treasures or in a story of hope. May you see a flattering photograph of yourself that you never even knew was taken. May you have at least 1,000 good words to patch up the coat of yourself or bandage your cuts with or burn like a candle for a sweet smell, a gentle reminder that you are good at least in part and worth the time regardless.

So look for your name here. Some have already been added. More are to come.

The Time We Spent (ode to Carolina)

June 14, 2011

We were side by side

in a heat that rose in slivers and strands

above the baking rocks that stretched

out before us like the inside of an egg carton.

Your arm was hooked about my waist

and I leaned in, smelling your sweat.

Our bodies wanted to hurry

but we were too busy laughing at the pain of ourselves.

In the time of endless summer sunshine

and stolen wine beneath heavy musky trees

fragrant with pollination that served as shade and a hideaway,

we touched and talked and tongued our way through life’s haze,

and I sipped joy directly from the cup of your hands with humility and gratitude.

We held up for hours in special secret spots on the soft banks of familiar ponds

with the juice of magnolia leaves on our skin.

And then, those summer Sundays when you stood tall and broad

in your freshly pressed shirt.

I can still hear the hiss of the iron.

I can still smell the polish on your shoes drying.

All of life to me was the taste of your kiss after breakfast

and the gentle steam of your breath tickling the bridge of my nose

as I pretended to straighten your tie in our small country kitchen

that bowed out just trying to contain your laughter.

It was not.

I repeat.

It was not your turn to die.