Can I Just Say…

I woke up this morning to so much negativity. Even the sky felt heavy as it dropped fat, splatting raindrops, filling potholes and cracks in the sidewalk. Yet even when I stared down the street at the depressed houses whose wooden sidings were soaking up the dampness, I still saw silver in the clouds above and thought today was going to be a good day. I breathe bigger when I drive through my town. I pull it inside me and inhale it completely. When I leave this life, there will be much of me left behind in this place and I am bound to it. If there is anyone out there whose heart is tied as tightly to this city as mine, I have yet to meet them.

Yet I witness exchanges daily that break my heart. Attacks on my home, slighting comments that dig at the flaws and exacerbate the sins of our neighbors. Things like,

“um, this city isn’t all that friendly. a lot of crime, drugs, and people on the registry.”

“welcome to high utility rates, soaring property taxes, aged housing, and a minimal selection of part time minimum wage jobs!”

“Bay Shitty blows, can’t wait to get out of here.”

and various other attacks solely based on religion that I won’t bother to give the validation of repetition or response.

And to those disgruntled neighbors, I implore, “why are you still here?” And I want you to really understand what I’m asking when I ask why you are here.

What is your purpose? What is your plan? It is plain to see you can identify the negatives – now what are you going to do about them? Continuing to point out the obvious does nothing but exacerbate those blemishes until they are a full-blown cancer, infecting the community with dissent and suspicion and killing the faith we have, not only in our leaders, in the people we had the opportunity to choose right into office, but in each other. In times like these when we are beginning to realize that we cannot depend on the government to take care of us on the most basic levels, it is more important now than ever before that we band together and become a community network again. Before we had OPTIONS of charitable assistance, we had each other. We had neighbors.

I say OPTIONS because I refuse to call them entitlements. That word has mutated into something negative, something shameful and selfish, which is the complete opposite of what the word means. Entitled means that someone should simply have those things – and I believe that basic needs such as food, shelter, clean water and basic health care are things that everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, orientation, disability, even criminal record… should have. Because regardless of our beliefs and our behaviors, we are still human. If you want to sit at your pulpit and spout Psalms and Proverbs at others, remember to look down at those pages once in a while and read them yourself.

This week alone, I have redirected several calls from desperate people in need of the basics. Turned away by faith-based charities for not fitting the image of their “mission.” Rejected by their neighbors because of the scarf on their head, or the shade of their skin, or the sound of the musical words coming from their throat, maybe in a song they’ve not heard before. Since when are the things we don’t know yet, things we automatically fear? As children we are encouraged to explore the unknown. How many public service announcements, how many PBS specials, how many classroom videos have started their message with a shooting star… “The More You Know!”?

I ask you, where did you go? It seems we all got lost somewhere between “all you need is love” and “then they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak up.”

Bay City, I will speak up for you. I will champion you because I know you are capable, you are deserving, and you are, at heart, the most “home” I will ever find.

I wish you could say the same. I wish you could see the bits and pieces of that beautiful tapestry I see. I wish the sun shone for you as brightly as it sparkles for me across the water of our river. I wish the buildings of the past hundred years would rise up to greet you as they do for me every morning. I wish the church bells that ring across the town sang the songs of your soul as they do mine.

And if it does not, I beg of you, please… go find what you’re looking for. If it is not here, I again ask you, why are you here?

Find the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. Sometimes that means changing your attitude about them. Sometimes that means exploring it further and gaining a broader perspective.

Be courageous and change the things you can. If you want to see better things, do better things. Be a better person today than you were yesterday. When you are struck down, thank your hardships for the lesson and meet them as worthy opponents next time.

Have the wisdom to know the difference. This is where we seem to struggle:

Anything can be changed for the better. ANYTHING. We are Americans, we are human beings, we are lovers and fighters and neighbors. We are all in this together.

GOOD MORNING! – xoxo ❤

Unrest.

 

This is where “home” meets “lost.”

I keep you inside a museum where my faith used to be. I carry your memory everywhere.

But I can only find you in the empty spaces. You’re only where you used to be but you aren’t there anymore.

I wonder how long this museum will remain. I wonder if this shrine will always stand.

I just can’t seem to let you rest. I am still tugging at your shirt and loving the sound of your voice giving me one of my own.

I suppose you will always be somewhere in the everywhere else. I will still be here, in the places I wish you were.

-SMB ❤

Morning Ritual

It has been six months and I am still putting pieces back together. I have started by finding corner pieces – FGL, kids, mission, work. Slowly finding the edges. Some days are easier than others. I’ve sang in the car and not cried. I’ve crumpled to the floor in a shaking mass of anxiety. I’ve scraped my knuckles on rock bottom again but each day I keep waking up.

So there’s something.

The roller coaster I thought I had managed to disembark years ago has unexpectedly picked me up again. As I involuntarily lose my shit while I process the gaping hole in my life, I have begun to learn how to “go” with this “flow.” At least as well as one possibly can while careening through life at 150 mph without a seatbelt, or even a heartfelt desire to not fly into oblivion.

I loved her immensely and that never waned – how can I believe them when they tell me my grief will? Yet I follow the steps. Accept the things I cannot change. Build a new sense of reality though none of this seems real.

She’s always there in the dark, just as I close my eyes to sleep. She kisses me good night and wipes my tears when she’s gone in the morning. If I don’t open my eyes, it might be true.

here’s a short piece I wrote about what happens when I open my eyes. the sun always rises on a new mourning.

 

Morning Ritual

embedded in the silver lining

of each day spent seeking lost faith:

your memory, the ache in this

newly-found canyon of myself.

the burning star I hope

to think you became

shines something fierce

in the morning sunrise; blue

meets glorious gold.

the street corners scream your name

like applause. My gratitude

for the city you left me

holds these fidgeting feet,

clenches this fist

around this heart.

-SMB 2017

 

have a good night. thank you for reading.

 

Rough Draft 1

Since I have tried to go back to paper journals, I cannot bring myself to write with honesty. I don’t have it in me to put it in ink. Someday, I’d like to lose this all and forget how bad it felt during the time of my life when the sun burnt out.

Okay, let’s get this out before I can’t remember so exquisitely and lose the details of what’s been rotting in the carcass of the soul I had before everything fell apart.

I have been smoking like a chimney. Part of me still very much wants to die. And because I have seen death, because I know now what is going to happen, I’m derailing myself early, I suppose, knowing that the inevitable is in fact inevitable. I wanted to be there. I selfishly needed to know she knew how much this hurt me. Because maybe she’d understand how much I loved her. It was fucked up but it’s how I felt I needed to honor her. I just needed to hold her hand.

But I saw something that

I can’t even say it. I can’t even tell you what it did. I watched her die and I felt every drop of faith I’d had in anything go down the drain. It was gone. It felt like my insides just stopped and I could do nothing. I had to go on with nothing. I still had so much in my life and so much to live for.

But I felt nothing. And let me tell you what nothing feels like: it’s fucking awful. It’s the saddest, angriest, most awful hurt in the pit of someplace so deep you can’t even comprehend. How is a person so much a person that they hurt so infinitely? Like every cell is so cold it burns. Like the galaxy that was inside you just burst and burnt out. The lightbulbs of all the things you imagined in your mind, now blown. Just broken glass and a faint puff of smoke. What the fuck?

I could not lay my head on his chest. I could feel his heartbeat and my own would stop. I could hear it thumping, functioning, living. I could feel his chest move up and down in the most comforting way and it made a resentful lump of childish anger rise in my throat. Everybody was alive except her. All I could feel was her chest under my hand, so

I can’t find the adjective and if I could I couldn’t say it aloud for fear the dam would break.

It was still.

I wake up with a song in my head every single day. On a good day, the bells are ringing that hymn in my head, the one that will not give me peace. When the bells are ringing, I can listen. On the other days, I wake up with an ache in this newly-discovered canyon of myself and nothing makes it go away until I sing it in my head, sometimes even aloud, an involuntary hum that springs forth. Then sings my soul…

Like taking a breath you know will lead to a coughing fit. Like taking a swig of a cold Pepsi and knowing you swallowed wrong. Like knowing the train is going to hit you but you stand on the tracks anyway.

And every day, I’m finding it easier to stand still.

 

If I write it down, maybe it will go away. I am trying. I have jumped into everything I can to give me something good. I have tried to cultivate this pain into the beauty I have been told it will become. I am trying to be my own advocate.

I’ve never had a plan. I don’t now. I’ve never written a letter, and I don’t want to. But if I did, and if I had, I need to know I did it right. I need to know I left a paper trail. That I reached out and I asked. That I did not fail myself yet fucking again.

I will be okay. I know that. But thank you for your concerns, or at least for your readership, or at the very least your curiosity, while I shift in and out of the moments when I doubt it.

 

-xoxo

thorn bird

It has been a long few months, and I have not had the words to describe it, to fully summarize the exhausting mucking-through that has been the bulk of my writing hiatus. Writer’s block is an awful affliction and I am clawing my way out. Tonight I was feeling a bit bristly and I picked this out, each word a little razor in my brain. Ever stepped on a prickly fern? They burn, and itch, and they’re impossible to see when they’re lodged in the thick skin at the bottom of your foot and therefore impossible to remove. More than ever, I am seeing various aspects of my life and feeling very similarly toward those variables in my life that I do with those goddamn prickly ferns.

So I wrote this out of frustration and was so relieved that something that was not complete and/or literal shit came out of me that I wanted to share it with someone.

Thanks for sticking around, and please tell your friends. Sometimes I write poems, and sometimes I try hard and write poems that might in some way suck a little less than others. I’ll let you be the judge and I’ll appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

 

 

Thorn bird

 

I will sing the song of swans for you

To prove

I possess a worth

To be proven.

I’d die to live, and lived only to die

By appearances,

Expectations and the infinite looping

Of what I think you think of me.

Be seen and not heard, suppress

The song and dance

Only when the world sleeps.

I took too long to arrive,

Born in the fall and kept going.

Flitting, unwittingly,

Mostly just unwillingly.

From rooftop to ledge,

Cliffs of my own creating

Could wings keep this heavy heart aloft?

A lack of faith, most disturbing,

In the simplicity of the wind;

Invisible strength, yet seen and so felt –

These things, in myself –

Mere melody without audience.

Every thorny poem

Until the words cut deep enough

to feel.

My song will be worth

Those words.

 

 

-xoxo

The October Effect

Much like alcoholism, bipolar disorder is something to be managed. It is something that lurks beneath the surface, threatening to destroy the fragile reality one creates in the sobriety of their days, after endless work and tears and perhaps even blood have been put into the effort. And much like alcoholism, it is something that never disappears, no matter how long it has been, no matter how much better life may seem on any other given day.

This morning, it knocked on the door of my subconscious again.

Hello, you. It’s me again. Have you checked your calendar recently? That cute rip-off calendar he gave you for Christmas last year that teaches you a new French word each day? What is today’s word? 

What is today’s date?

It’s October again.

October. Yes, it is. It’s been October for nearly two weeks now, and I have been so busy filling my days with everyone else’s problems and fears that I have been able to suppress my own. I love this job. I love leading others to the solutions to their dilemmas, to the light at the end of those seemingly endless tunnels of desperation and despair. I love being the one to light the spark of hope in their voices as they hang up happier than when they called me. Me, the helper, the Maker of Better. I gain a lot of satisfaction in going home each day knowing that I helped far more people than I had to turn away. I find the silver lining in those numbers and it brings me back each morning to put on my headset, become “Available” for calls, and endure the barrage of fear-stricken callers whom are out of options.

If I were anyone else, maybe it would be “just a job.” Maybe it would be just an office I go to, a comfy swivel chair I get to sit in, a lovely corner desk with nice views of the gorgeous beginnings of a fall sunset each evening as my workday winds down. But I’m me, with my past, my fears and dreams, and my mental illness.

I’ve been there. I’ve been those callers. I’ve been those mothers, those wives. I’ve been those down-trodden souls with no food, no shelter, no resources and no hope. I’ve been those failures, those losers. How dare I ever let myself believe I am not still those people, those human beings with souls as broken as my own.

Septembers are good for me. For the past five years, September has been a month of healing. A month of getting my life back together, reorganizing my days into a routine that I can live with, and almost be comfortable with. I have no right as a 26-year-old to ever be truly comfortable, lest I give up on continuing to strive to be better every single day. September means going back to school, setting a pace that my family and I can all keep up until the dissection of December and those divorced holidays that stretch our family thin and bring us in close for embarrassingly loud, unabashed hugs when we are all reunited once again.

But like many other aspects of my life, as soon as I hit the ground running, I stumble. I get into a groove and find the crack in the sidewalk. I don’t always land on my face, but the inner damage is done, the rhythm broken, the peace unsettled. I fly up like the leaves swirling in the wind and wonder where I will land, wishing against all wishes that I could just be attached to the trees again.

October happens.

Octobers are the reminder of the scope of hold that bipolar disorder has on me and my life, my entire existence even before I was aware of it. The first week marks the birthdays of friends I have left behind, friends I casually hold onto with the tips of my fingers as we superficially connect over social media. The first week is okay. The leaves begin their light show, and the nights turn cool. They entice me with the thoughts of bonfires, hot caramel apple cider, and memories of passing a joint around a circle of friends I thought I’d be part of forever. Today, I find myself still missing the joint, but not nearly as much as I would miss having this opportunity to be a better generation in my family than the ones before me. Being clean has given me the key to doors I had always assumed were to be left locked, at least for someone like me.

The second week of October marks memories of a boy’s eyes, the first boy that ever told me he loved me without having to pry those words from his mouth with endless hint-dropping and desperate attempts at makeup profiles, crop tops and bad advice from teen magazines purporting to know the secret to getting a boyfriend. He had beautiful eyes, like an October morning with waves of faded grass dotted by golden leaves. I told him this once and he smiled, but did not take my flowery words seriously. That’s when the doubt crept in and I first thought he may not be the one. I’ve always known how to find my soulmate – he would speak that hidden language and be able to find those words in me, pulling them from the back of my throat with a kiss so deep he could probably taste my darkest secrets. But he’d love me anyway, and know what it meant.

I remember, over twelve years ago, when those eyes turned dull and he didn’t see me as pretty anymore. We were still virgins, teasing ourselves and each other with the idea of going over the finish line, just to see what would change. To see if we would instantly be wiser, smarter, cooler, or even just like each other more than we thought we already did. As it happens, we didn’t see eye to eye on these complex details and he became a competitor while I became a finish line.

And when I didn’t let him cross it, he stepped over it anyway.

When I think of that night, in that parking lot off the highway where he assured me nobody would hear me scream, that cool breeze of autumn doesn’t remind me of apples and pumpkins anymore. It is a biting wind that takes my breath away and constricts my chest until I almost believe nobody could hear me scream even if I were in a crowded room.

That’s what bipolar disorder feels like. A constant argument with myself, a debate over fault and if it lies with me. Hint: it never has, but it always does.

Next week, the third week of October, will be the week I start looking for birthday cards. I know they will not come, and if they do, I know they will not be from my great-grandmother. There will be no unicorns, no angels, no glittery hearts or stars. There will be no shaky writing inquiring about me and my sister, assurances that prayers are being sent in our names. There will be no dollar and when I buy myself a candy bar, it will taste as badly as I miss her.

I will visit her grave, and I will chirp away all the lovely happenings in my life. I will wonder if she would be proud of me, and smile because I know she would be. Then I will get in my car and I will drop my heart in my lap so I can hold my head in my hands and I will cry until it hurts, until the hurt goes away to return next year, next October 23.

And finally, in the last week, I will face the day I’ve been looking forward to all year: my 27th birthday. My “golden birthday,” the day I marked to be the day I would become everything I ever wanted to be. Quick checklist:

I am married to the love of my life, my high school sweetheart, the one that got away.

I have three beautiful children. A daughter, finally learning to be comfortable in her own skin. Another daughter, whom displays everything I ever hoped she would, all of the good, passionate, shining examples of my personal portfolio of traits I am proud of. And a son, the first boy of the next generation of my family, the culmination of a love I believed in with such fierceness, it should come as no surprise, that noise which emits from his mouth each morning. The screeching, screaming laughter of pure and utter joy.

I have a beautiful roof over my head, one I am not in fear of losing. One I am not worried I cannot afford. One I bask in each morning as I cross the original hardwood floors to fling open the antique windows and let the sun filter through.

I am home. It took me twenty years to get here, but I am home. I am back in the zip code I missed, the neighborhoods I waxed nostalgic over for so long. I watch my children’s feet tread the same paths my own took and it brings me a peace that only a perfect circle can bring someone as obsessive-compulsive as myself.

I have a job that pays me to do the kind of work I always wished I had time for. I have fulfilled my father’s orders to find something that satisfies me and fulfilled my favorite teachers’ wishes that I do something good with the heart I was blessed to receive. I do no harm and have found a way to give back to those who gave so much to me.

This morning, I drove my daughters to school. As I pulled out of the elementary school parking lot, I lit a cigarette. It’s a nasty habit, yes, but it beats rolling a joint I’d be fired over. So I lit a cigarette and as I looked sideways to flick the ashes from my window, I saw a car accident. Two mothers with their children in the backseats, sitting in the front looking angry and defeated. That’s a bad morning, I thought. I drove past, silently wishing their days would improve.

As my cigarette burned closer to my knuckles, memories of bad mornings flooded back to the forefront of my brain. Mornings I would wake with a smile on my face, until I rolled over to see that he was still there, still asleep, still dreaming of all the ways he could break me down today. Mornings I would turn my back to the mirror so I didn’t have to see the growing face, the widening waist; brushing my hair in silence, watching it fall to the floor. Stress, they told me. Take some time off.

Take some time off? From what? The two days a week I could work? Take time off from my children, the only good things in my life? Take time off from a husband whom treated me like a pathetic dog, begging for scraps of a heart? This was my life – there is no “taking time off.”

And today, those memories are so distant, if I did not write them down they may just fly away. Or so I’d love to believe. As I smoked that cigarette, driving through the neighborhood of the happiest times of my childhood, I was hit with a brick wall of sadness so thick, it may just satisfy Donald Trump and his dreams for total isolation.

Hello you. It’s me again.

I heard myself whisper, I don’t want to be depressed. Then louder, I DON’T WANT TO BE DEPRESSED. Louder, until I was nearly shouting at myself with stray tears flying off my cheeks as fast as I could furiously wipe them away, I DON’T WANT TO BE DEPRESSED!

I don’t want to be so much of what I am. I don’t want to be a mediocre writer, a half-ass poet. I don’t want to be a fat, stretched-out caricature of myself. I don’t want to be a college dropout, just like the vast majority of people I know. I don’t want to be a mom too busy for my children. I don’t want to be a welfare rat, I don’t want to be a mental patient. I don’t want to be a woman whom doesn’t know what she wants to be.

I don’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to wonder. I don’t want to listen to that voice in my head anymore. I don’t want to be medicated to the point I can’t remember what it’s like to care. I am so certain about the things I do not want, but entirely up in the air about what will be left.

This is what bipolar disorder feels like. It feels like October.

Run, Stumble, Somersault!

Oh, man. It has been a busy, busy few weeks for me. It’s been mostly good, but there’s still that monster of panic and anxiety lurking in the deep. It woke me this morning, the first morning in weeks I’ve been able to sleep in. I rolled to my left, wrapped my arm around my Fair Ginger Lover and my fingers found my son, sleeping soundly in the curve of his daddy’s body. My boys were dreaming away, so why was I awake?

I peeled myself out of bed, tiptoeing because God forbid I wake that little dinosaur-in-training. He’s been screeching nonstop all week and though my mind is racing from the vivid films I watched in my sleep, it’s still quiet outside my head and I’m going to enjoy it while I can!

So I came downstairs this morning, found the cat snuggled in my spot on the couch, though he may argue it is, in fact, his spot on the couch, shooed him off, (because it is MY spot on the couch) and here I sit, trying to figure out how to put into words, the roller coaster my life has been on this past few weeks.

Let’s take an inventory of my most recent month. I have taken a new position with an amazing organization. I’ll wait to go into details until I can post my business card (!!!) but I am thrilled to be part of something bigger than myself, something that serves our community, something that allows me to use my heart in my work. I get to speak to dozens of people every day, hear their stories, find solutions to their setbacks, and send them on their way with a renewed sense of hope. For all of the time I spent seeking out the same sort of people and services, it feels amazing to be able to give back. My karma is singing!

This week, especially, has been tremendous. I began two weeks ago. Already, I have risen to taking calls myself, holding down the office fort, and praise has been heaped upon me regarding how well I take the stress in stride. What is there to stress about? I realize I cannot help everyone, but the vast majority of callers have been given some hope and I hold onto that. I know that no matter how dire the situation may seem in the big picture, if I can sort out at least one detail in one person’s life, I will have made someone’s day better. That’s what I came to do. I’m here to help.

My boss has asked me if I’ve cried yet.

Yes, yes I have. I have cried in the car on the way home as I think about how low I dipped last month, wondering if I would be able to stay in this beautiful apartment. Wondering if I had made a huge mistake in transplanting our family back to my hometown. Wondering if my children would see me as a failure for leaving a bad job with good pay for a job I liked with little to no pay. Wondering if there was anything I could sell, anything I could part with that wouldn’t hurt too much. Wondering if I should consider finding a new home for my dog so I could make sure he would never end up at the pound, should I be forced into subsidized housing. (But after that one I laughed, knowing damn well I’d live in my truck before I lived without my Ziggy.)

But things have changed, and so much so for the better. I have left that job I liked with little to no pay, and replaced it with a job I was afraid I would never have. For years, I have taken jobs that have served as placeholders. I told myself, “I won’t be a waitress forever; this is just until I get a real job.” Every day I put on a uniform shirt, a little name badge, and an apron. I have put on a facade that I could no longer deny was degrading my very soul. I did not want to pretend with people anymore. I did not want to sell them something they did not need. I did not want to prostitute my conscience and sell myself for tips. Now, I work for a real wage, a real non-profit organization, a real cause, and real people with real problems. I find real solutions and receive real thanks and it makes me feel really, REALLY good.

For the first time since I began college almost ten years ago, I feel good about my decision to let it wait. I have spent so much time chasing something I still have not accomplished, but it has given me the leg up I needed, and maybe that’s all I needed it for. It sickens me to think I’m almost $50,000 in debt for something I still don’t have, but life has given me a strange set of circumstances and some have been expensive. If I could do it over again, I’d probably ditch the crappy ex-husband a lot sooner and finish what I started, but at the same time, if I had not slunk back home with my tail between my legs, I would never have been given the opportunity to set that regret on fire with the spark my love has reignited in me.

And I can tell you this, the life I have built in the last five years is worth far, far more than $50,000.