january.

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good things:

today I took a long walk while snow fell gently. it was quiet despite the bustle of buses letting kids go.
the air smelled like snow and bonfires. the sky was pale, pale grey.

the snow and the peace do my northern heart good.

I have set goals for myself and have made steps towards achieving them. even though some of them are just practical goals like “for the love of ghosts, get your health insurance taken care of” and not things like “figure out who you are and what you want out of life before it all passes you by.”

today, I forced myself to write even though I’ve been waiting for inspiration to strike. instead of waiting for inspiration specifically tailored to what I want, I forced some words onto the page. it’s a start. (I keep thinking “no, I need to save up my writing for when I need it…” and consequently not getting any writing done at all, because of course.)

I am warm and snug at home, and our Christmas tree is still lit up and decorated and not at all close to dying. it actually smells more piney now than it did when we first got it. I don’t know what sort of sorcery this is, but I like it.

maestro will be home soon.

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birdling.

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You see: I aspire to be a bird. Birds can fly. They can sing. They sing without worrying what they sound like. Because they’re birds; they’re supposed to sing, that’s what they do. Of course their song is beautiful. They’re birds. Their song is a part of who they are. How they’re identifiable. They fly, they sing. They lay eggs and make nests. It’s what makes a bird a bird. I want to be like that.

But I am a jellyfish. I don’t know why jellyfish don’t sing, but they don’t. Maybe they have the same reasons I do. They’re quiet and they bloop bloop along with the current and they’re spineless and brainless. But you shouldn’t mess with a jellyfish even if it seems harmless, because they’ll sting you. And maybe I should just accept my jellyfish nature instead of striving to be a bird.

Because a jellyfish can’t be a bird. They can’t even survive outside of the water at all, they can’t even begin to dream of flying. Or singing. Or maybe they do dream about it. Who knows.

(A jellyfish may wish to be a bird, but where would it be at home?)
(In the ocean. Not being a bird. That’s where jellyfish are at home.)

enough.

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What happens when you have a passion, but you’re not any good at it?

I’ve been mulling this over a lot, lately. (More than usual, which is already fairly frequently.) I’ve been mulling over a lot of things lately, but this is one I keep coming back to.

Does it count as a passion if you’re not actually good at it, you just love it? Is that the sort of passion you should try to pursue, really? If you know that it’s not something anyone will ever pay you to do?

When I say I’ve been mulling this over “lately,” I mean over the past few months. It’s always something that I’ve wondered about, but it came up in a discussion on characters like Jo March and Anne Shirley, who are told during the course of their stories that they ought to stop writing those dreadful novels and “write what they know.” (I’ve never actually read the Anne of Green Gables books, so I might be misrepresenting, but this is what a friend told me.) She took umbrage with the idea that writers must “write what they know,” as it seemed particularly female writers were the ones that got saddled with that criticism. If a girl wants to write gothic novels or penny dreadfuls or sensational melodramas, the world should let her, she argued.

I can’t argue against that, honestly – people should write what speaks to them! I just took something different away from the criticism itself. I think possibly these fictional female writers got in to situations that mirrored situations their creators found themselves in: I assume (perhaps wrongly) that once upon a time, Louisa May Alcott was told to “stop writing your silly sensational novels and focus on writing what you know” herself. I can’t fault her for incorporating that reality, that criticism in her narrative, if she herself once heard it. Given that what she delivered once she took this advice to heart is an American classic, it’s possible the advice was not misguided.

But that’s the thing: what if Alcott’s passion was truly writing sensation novels, and she was just terrible at it? Obviously she wasn’t a terrible writer, so it’s not as though she was completely wrong about her gifts – she wasn’t secretly an amazingly talented accountant instead and on the wrong path completely.

But I think there’s something to be said for wanting to be good at something in a particular way, which then blinds you to what aspect of that thing you might have a real talent for. What if you’re someone who wants to write novels, but you should be writing travel guides? What if you’re someone who wants to write a blog about cooking but should be writing romance novels? What if you want to sing country music, but you should be focusing on jazz? What if you want to play the piano but you’d be amazingly good at the bass guitar?

This of course leads to the inevitable worst-case scenario: what if all you’ve ever wanted to do was sing, but you’re not actually that good of a singer? What if all you’ve ever wanted to do was perform, but you’re unsuited to it? What if maybe you might be good, but you’ll never be good enough? You just don’t have that something that comes with being innately good?

What do you do then?

Is it possible you just haven’t found your niche? Should you decide to figure out where your talents actually lie? What if you work hard at it anyway and find out you’re just not ever going to be good enough at any of it – what do you do then? Is this the sort of passion you ought to pursue? Is this what people mean when they say “follow your passion”? Do you keep trying to fight to make it work? What do you do then?

trust.

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I inherited my trust issues from my mother,
the same way I inherited the shape of my body
(sturdy Irish-Danish peasant stock),
the same way I inherited my father’s love of music
(and sometimes questionable taste),
the same way I did not inherit her blue eyes.

those trust issues were bequeathed to her
by her own parents,
exacerbated by my father,
and then she passed them on to me.

I have abandonment issues.
I inherited those from twelve-year-old me,
from sixteen-year-old me,
from seventeen-year-old me,
who learned the heavy, glass-smooth ache of waking up
reaching out
and finding someone gone.

my abandonment issues and my trust issues are bosom buddies,
always hand in hand.
“he’ll find someone better than you and leave,” they whisper in chorus.
“someone prettier, someone smarter. someone more talented. transcendent.
someone worthy. she’ll have what you want because she deserves it.”
(it’s not just you they say these things about, either:
“oh, no wonder; they all must have realized what a phony you are,
she’s figured out that you’re actually just plain awful,
they thought you were kind and pretty and you let them down,
she’s realized you’re actually needy and annoying and a little dumb and really flaky,
no wonder none of them want to talk to you.”
I’ve built up walls in friendships because of these whispers.)

the point is they don’t really feel like they’re mine,
not really.
(I didn’t earn them.)
they feel like gifts and curses bestowed on me by good and evil fairies
at the hour of my birth, or some other magical turning point in my life.
by now they feel like old friends,
and the voices are familiar
(sometimes my own, sometimes others’),
but they don’t feel like part of me.

they do feel like some kind of outward force,
evil fairies not invited to christenings.
or maybe: Rapunzel’s witch-mothers,
trying to keep me safe by making sure I am prepared
if anything ever goes wrong.

the problem is that I am not prepared for everything going right.

when do I get to feel safe?

perverse.

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there’s something perverse in my nature,
something that sends me straight towards
what I should be running from:
the terrifying, the painful,
the violent and sometimes hateful.
running,
with open arms,
asking to fix and to help
pricking my own fingers and heart
on the jagged edges.

to soothe
the rising temper,
to kiss
the bruised hands,
to bandage
the bloodied knuckles.
to pick up
the pieces
shattered
(mirrors, hearts)
by my own
carelessness.

worth.

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I don’t think that I’m brave, having those conversations or admitting to having them. I think the brave thing would be to let him convince me that he really believes those things, and eventually that maybe I really am those things (pretty, talented, smart, good). I know for a fact that the need for constant reassurance, especially when he’s never been anything BUT reassuring, wears thin after a while: we’ve had many fights about it. But he does it anyway: patiently, stubbornly, with an edge of irritation in his voice and sometimes shouting the words at me in the midst of a fight.

Although I think you know yourself and what you want out of life best, and I would never want to tell you how to feel or who you are, I do take umbrage with the idea that you’re not “wired” to be loved. Because being loved platonically and being loved romantically are different in some ways, but my particular insecurities react with expressions of affection of either sort in very similar ways.

Here’s something my therapist wants me to work on, and I think I ought to pass it along: you don’t need to be beautiful or talented to be worthy of being loved. You don’t need to be a specific kind of beautiful or talented or useful to be loved or to accept that love. You are, of course, beautiful and talented and altogether worthy (QUIET, YOU. YOU ARE), but those are not prerequisite to being loved or to accepting that love. I don’t know if the little voice inside your head has the same script as mine, but often it’s “someday I will be worthy of that love but right now they are wrong about me and I can’t accept it right now.” (With a lot of other very mean things thrown in.)

Someone that loves you – romantically, platonically, whatever – will love YOU and everything that comes with that. They will love whatever it is that makes you yourself. That person will love your singing voice even when you sing off-key and they will love your weird crooked teeth and the three hairs that stick up straight from your eyebrows and every picture of you even when you’ve been caught mid-blink and you look possessed; they will love everything you ever make for or give to them; they will love that sometimes you drool while you’re sleeping and the fact that you care too much about things that don’t matter to anyone else and they’ll love your terrible puns and music jokes that they don’t actually get and your irritating know-it-all voice; even your insecurities will become dear (if annoying) to them because they love you and they want you to think of yourself the way they see you.

It does take bravery to love, but sometimes it takes more bravery to accept the love that people want to give you without prevarication.

You do not need to be anything in particular to be worthy of love. You just are.

alien.

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sometimes i think you’re an alien from another planet
and most of the time i know you think the same of me.

but then i wonder.

maybe we’re both aliens from the same planet
but we’re from opposite poles.
different cultures,
you know.

we recognize each other as being the same,
somehow,
but we’re speaking different languages.

it’s fate. we’ve found
each other
across the stars,
tucked away in some corner
of some galaxy,
so far away from home.

we know it’s fate,
but we don’t know how
to say it.

so we keep trying.

and i know even if that were true –
and then if we were back home on our planet
with all the aliens like us –
somehow the stars would still line up the same.
you’d still have affixed to me
and i’d still be fixed on you.
speaking different languages
but knowing the same things.

asleep.

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Everything seems so far away from me right now.

Not even in a bad way, I don’t think. In a bittersweet sort of way. There are things I want, things I want my life to have, and they’re just…distant. I can’t have them yet. They might be coming, but for right now they’re out of reach.

(This post may or may not be influenced by the fact that I spent the better part of the morning searching homes for sale in the area I want to live.)

It’s as though I spent the years nineteen through twenty-five in an enchanted slumber. I can’t think of anything I accomplished in those years. I didn’t graduate from college, as many of my friends did. I didn’t break into any major theatre communities. I didn’t even hold on to one job or another for a long period of time. I was involved in a relationship that ended up being – honestly – a bit of a lie, and in the end nothing came of it. (Other than a cancelled wedding.)

I drifted so far away from where I wanted to be, even from where I thought I wanted to be. And when I woke up, I pointed myself in the direction of where I thought I wanted to be – which ended up not being what I wanted at all. If I’d been awake that whole time, maybe I would have figured that out sooner.

Things are different now. I am awake, and moving in a direction that I like. (I’m the captain of this ship now.) But I feel as though I’m eight years behind everyone else. I’m sure I’ll get there, eventually. But for now, so much of what I want is out of reach.

Everything is so far away.

glass.

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It’s like I tried to be Cinderella, but the glass slippers didn’t fit
(shoes never were my thing anyway)
so instead of slippers, I have slivers of shattered glass that I walk on.

And my voice
that soaring part of my soul,
the only thing I ever had in common with the birds
(that voice that you loved so well
even if it wouldn’t have charmed sailors from their ships)
now quiet.
Silenced.
Not mute, exactly, but afraid.

The sweep of waves against sand
(glass comes pre-broken, you know
it’s up to us to change it into a mirror-smooth surface
perfectly reflecting back what you want to see)
is the accompaniment to my hushed voice,
quieting me.

Shush,” it says,
“don’t speak of it,
don’t sing.
Stay quiet,
don’t bother.
Glass is transparent
and reflective.
You needn’t shout.
Shush.”

What happens when I don’t want to be quiet anymore?
When the restlessness of my caged voice
overshadows the fear?
When the shush of the waves
can’t convince me to stop singing?
When I look in the mirror,
and what’s reflected in the glass
is something I’m willing to accept?

Shoes will never be my thing,
but maybe walking barefoot won’t be quite so painful.