forty-four

(I’m making an effort to be more accountable to finishing my poems, rather than writing down tidbits and pieces from my head/being too afraid to complete them. This is the only time I will make disclaimers about my amateurism – I think it goes without saying that I am a practicing writer/poet, so writing of any kind is important, regardless of my ability to “sound good” or write something “beautiful”. Additionally, constructive feedback is helpful, if necessary, and the opposite of cruel.)

Here goes! Love, Kirstie.

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//forty-four//

Our late coffee date, a ping on my eye-drying blue
screen – which my eyes curled up into as I do half past 3am
turning, tossing, thoughtlessly
thoughtful –
like the way she penciled me in
flowery notebook, scattered in notes of tomorrow’s missing
salad ingredients, remembered
musings from clients she’d seen earlier
in the week I held up all of my dresses against my nudged, rising chest:
a rippling sunrise cotton, wet cemented tulle, silk blooming
daisies dandelions daffodils – yes, that’s it – draped across
the stretching yawn of Greenwood avenue, the sun’s mumbled
good night, yes it would be, or I mean, I hope
at least she was a nice lady, I guess,
I could tell it was her when I heard her laugh shimmying
across the coffeeshop, she tugged at the ordinary of
someone – more than just
one second –
she holds up her finger and her grin, but it’s not
an apology – I want to know how she roped me in without
strings attached, okay, yes, there is one:
the corners of my lips
nudged upward, kindling the roasting cheek fire –
we haven’t even said hello and I feel
welcome to the orbit of us, the big bang of
known unknown and
unknown known.

Her twinned brown melts into mine like her
tell me more, coating my heart with a milky
chew – it’s less than the bite –
thankfully I am where
I am at a loss for words, gripping the table
wanting to cling to the hem of her dress like
the little twenty-four
I am, I have –
she doesn’t look at me, no, she pours
sunshine, I thought dipped its fingers in my hair earlier
tonight, I don’t want this to
endings will come, but so will beginnings – when
is the beginning of her when right now
I am fearfully twenty
yearsmonthshoursminutesseconds; away –
I am now? I don’t
understand that you are still
pacing, I can’t
allow yourself to just be
me –
she remembers with
forty-four smiles.

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Klukkadraugur

I counted.  I will be spending 31 hours in Keflavik International Airport.  As I write this, I’m on hour twelve.

The thing is, I had a choice to do something different, and instead I chose this.

Actually, it was a series of choices.  On Friday, I chose to accept an invitation from a newly made acquaintance in Iceland to meet her and a friend for drinks.  I knew that I could have only one drink because a) I had money only for one, having calculatedly spent  the rest of my Iceland budget on extremely good souvenirs, and b) I had to be ready for the airport shuttle to pick me up at 5am.

Just one.  Which should be easy, I told myself, since it’s going to be awkward and you don’t really know these people anyways, so bowing out early will be a relief to everyone.

It was not just one.  It was many.  My acquaintance, a doppelgänger of Yolanda Visser from Die Antwoord, procured them for me, of her own accord.  And it wasn’t awkward at all, and only in part because of lowered inhibition.  I liked these Icelanders.  I could talk to them about things that mattered.  I asked them about their artistic process (they were both artists).  We discussed artistic self-doubt, and self-doubt in general, and its root in cultural upbringing.  And this naturally transitioned into licorice shots (which are a thing?) and dancing.  Because dancing is art.  It ties in.

What also tied in was me staggering into a hostel toilet and vomiting for I don’t know how long.  Long enough that at some point I looked at the clock and thought “okay, now for an hour of sleep before I have to get up to get ready for the shuttle”. The reader will be utterly shocked to learn that this is not what happened.  My alarm chimed for three hours before I heard it, two hours after my shuttle was supposed to get me.  The front desk said I could try to flag down a taxi and make it to the airport on time, if I could figure out a way to do that without money.  Briefly I considered what it would be like to do a sexual favor to get to the airport.  I quickly discarded the idea after being shocked by the images that popped into my head, but took it as information for how desperate I was feeling.

My airline was able to find a different flight for me, at no extra cost, in two days’ time.  I felt extremely lucky that this even was an option.  So I took it, knowing that I could spend  all of that day walking around Reykjavik and take a late night shuttle to the airport to sleep there.  For two nights.

I chose not to follow up with the few connections I had in Iceland and impose upon them for those nights.  My parents and a few friends of mine even said they had connections, if I needed, in an emergency.  I ignored this.

I’m currently at a Dunkin’ Donuts seating area in the Keflavik airport wondering why I ignored this.

Part of me believes it is because I am afraid of complications and new people.  Of improvising.  Of not being able to predict how things will turn out.  My inner critic believes that.  And I know that it contains a grain of truth.  I really want to go home.  So much so that I cried a little when I typed that.  Like, really.  Like, if one more thing went haywire, and my exhausted, still somewhat hungover, penniless self had to call another stranger or scramble with all my luggage to a new place, I would probably decide that I’ll never make it home and crouch in one of Reykjavik’s very colorful gutters and be absorbed into the Icelandic folklore as the anxious ghost of an Outsider that haunts people’s alarm clocks to make them go off early.  Klukkadraugur, they would call me – Clock Ghost.

I am critical of this part of myself that is Klukkadraugur.  My critic thinks she is weak and cowardly.  And boring.  And ruins everything with her anxiety.  My critic is thinking that Klukkadraugur landed us in this fucking tiny airport, that only has wooden benches to sleep on.

Another part of me knows that I was Ready To Be Done with vacation.  Primarily, with bustle.  With being around dozens of strangers, and no friends, and having to act the way one acts around strangers 24/7.  Done with going places.  Literally done with spending money.  Part of me knows that I really like airports, actually.  That I got an excited feeling when I thought about how sitting in one place all day borders on a spiritual experience, especially for someone like me, who is addicted to doing rather than being.  That enduring having no bed, and only a suitcase, is actually a test of character.  Part of me knows I needed an empty space in which to transition and process.  Even if it meant being uncomfortable, and foregoing an extra day gallivanting around in a city.

Klukkadraugur needed to be listened to.  She needed to feel like somebody cared about what she felt.  And I think that, even though I’ll spend the next twenty or so hours in vague discomfort, she will not be haunting me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Un-Give-Up

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On the day Donald Trump was elected president, I noticed an extraordinary amount of small important things.

Walking back from buying coffee, I saw a woman sitting cross legged beneath the wide spread of a tree, the yellow of her coat catching against the tree’s webbed branches. I watched as an older couple took hands as they crossed an empty street. Saw a dog pad his tail against the sidewalk in gentle greeting.

I paid more attention than usual to the white lines of paint against the dark wet pavement, the flickering of rain on my windshield, the press of my footsteps, the awareness of presence.

All this because, in my life so far, I have not so much flirted with suicide as recklessly dated her. I have taken her out, let her eat her fill, asked her to sleep next to me in bed at night. Even on good days I can remember the press of her body against mine, the weight of her imprint on a mattress.

This is to say — giving up is something I understand intimately. And so, there in, is the experience of staying. The un-give-up.

And so, on the day that Donald Trump was being elected, I noticed on purpose. I have done this my entire life, and I am certain it is what has saved me. Not just the click of saved moment / movement / sound / feeling, so much as the ability to notice at times when needed most.

Tonight, a green glass jar on my windowsill is leaking light. A small round candle inside of it licks the sides. The sky skims with lightening. My small soft kitten sleeps restlessly on the couch, waking to the sound of thunder only to lift his head, blink, and sleep once more.

Today, I am working on noticing. Working on the un-give-up.

Today, people with more power than me decided things for me. Today, people publically victim blamed and set a precedence for it to continue. Today, I read the list of pre-existing conditions that would deny someone protection and health care coverage and counted at least 3 that I have documented evidence of being diagnosed with. Today, I thought of all the people for whom this news is not just bad, it is debilitating, life changing, life ending.

I am so tired. I am so eager to turn off, to shut down, to stop. The stop sounds so easy. So dramatic, yes. So ultimately damaging for others. But oh — how much easier in this moment. Because there isn’t just the world of hurt, there is also our worlds of hurt, our individual universes in which people have left or hurt us or not loved us enough or loved us too much or some combination of those. All of that has felt big and controlling, as if the flexing hand of those in more power can rid me not just of health care, but of my relationships and friendships and job and stability and hope and help.

What I have learned from dating suicide (and her friends depression, etc.) is that at the place where you want to give up, there are only two choices. Give up (whatever that might mean in that situation), or don’t. I like the gray, have spent most of my life trying to fit in the space between black and white. But with that — there is no 1/2 way. There is just yes, or no. Do, or don’t.

Once, in college, I told a therapist I wanted to die and was going to try if she didn’t help me (please, I said, staring out the thick glass of her window, please, please don’t let me go home). She listened quietly until the clock turned and told me we’d talk about it next week. I walked out of her office, down the stairs to the parking lot, and sat in my car. I remember little because of the state I was in, except that in that moment, I was wildly and excruciatingly aware of the choice I had. Do, or don’t. Leave or stay. I listed the choices.

  1. Turn the car on.
  2. Don’t.

In that moment, if I had turned on the car, if I had driven out into the world — I would have chosen to leave / do / give up. I know that, still, with a certainty that I almost fear.

Instead, I put my keys in the passenger seat. I opened up the back door of the car, crawled into the backseat, and curled up. I slept and cried and slept and cried, long after the therapist who fucked up drove home for the night. I stayed for 5 hours in that parking lot, in the back of my car, waiting.

And then, when I knew I could, I turned the car on and drove away.

This matters only to say that sometimes, un-giving-up looks like curling up in a car in the dark wet parking lot of your therapist’s office and just waiting. That sometimes, we have 0 answers and the smallest fraction of hope, and still the ability to notice a green glass jar leaking light. How that’s enough, somehow. How just choosing that makes it so.

Dear friends, for tonight, let’s just wait.

 

 

Happy birthday to you (repeat x24)

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As of this year, I’ve eaten 24 birthday cakes – all just for me. Several people, on April 27th, asked me, “How has your birthday been?”

“Good!” I told them, beaming a melting vanilla smile.

Several times I asked myself the same question.

“Bad…” came my hushed whisper.

I spent my day wiggling and giggling with people near and far. I was celebrated, thanked,  gifted and loved. But all day something felt wrong. Something stomach-churningly familiar, similar to being overstuffed with cake and being asked to take another bite. A filling emptiness.

I remember the year of my 19th birthday. I worked all evening and somehow ended up working later than expected, missing dinner with my boyfriend at the time and the rest of my family. I came home to a cake, deserted on the counter, where a walmart employee scrawled my name across a sheet cake. Looking around, it was just the two of us, the dim kitchen light like deflating balloons above us. I spared her with a scrunched side smile and slipped downstairs into my room. As I laid on my bed, my thoughts partied in my head.

Happy birthday? Are you sure? Happy? Birthday? How embarrassing. No one to celebrate you. No family, no friends, no boyfriend. So much for this continued existence of yours.

The only thing in my goody bag was sleep, which I stole into soon after.

In stumbling upon these regifted feelings, I find perspective. I’m still unwrapping the unexpected gifts that come with candle-eyed curiosity of my own imperfections, insecurities and inevitabilities. I’m still unwrapping the fact that my feelings, thoughts and whole self are to be sang to – even if no one else is.

Happy birthday. Actually, scratch that. It doesn’t have to be happy. But, birthday – thank you for the reminder to keep celebrating me – regardless of who, or if anyone is at my party.

*   *   *

Last birthday,
April showers brought
fingernail-biting flowers
perennial processing: pruning my pink pulpy petals
pitter-patter
patter-pitter.

This birthday:
Present? wrap
blooming bones
flowering faces
growing glimpses
of me.

Kayf haal-ik?

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In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

 

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

 

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

 

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

 

I read this article when it was first published in 2014 and was obsessed (still am obsessed) with the idea of being able to greet others with the phrase “How’s your heart?”. As someone who finds small talk painful, I’m usually at a loss for words in conversations unless the conversation meanders into the softly tread terrain of emotions, into places of vulnerability and compassion, places normally labelled as over-share or too-much-information.

I struggle incessantly with social anxiety. I never know when to interject in a conversation. I never know if what I have to say is worthwhile. I think too much before I speak and then by the time I’ve formed something I find acceptable to share, the conversation topic has changed. They say social anxiety stems from perfectionism. I’m trying to get to know this inner-critic of mine and hopefully come to a truce.

I’ve recently found like people who love to talk intimately! I’ve actually been able to put those lovely words to use! How’s your heart? Where do you hurt? How can we heal together? And for once it doesn’t feel corny or out of place. For this, the immensity of my gratitude is immeasurable. I hope that this blog will be a safe space to strike up those conversations that gauge the temperature of our hearts, find growth and openness in our minds, nurture acceptance of our bodies, and brew remedies for our souls.

How is your heart?