Eight Years

Year One

Rules:

(1) Don’t touch my face or

(2) Watch me shower or

(3) Slap my ass in public or

(4) Open pickle jars for me or

(5) Wake me up before I’m ready or

(6) Let me oversleep or

(7) Say anything about working out or

(8) Buy me flowers when you know I like plants or

(9) Open doors for me or

(10) Tell me not to cry.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I don’t like tree bark or pomegranate seeds or when roots cling to plants that are already dead.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I can’t think about space. DON’T MAKE ME. There are too many little parts in one picture; too many small things swirling together. Dark Matter. Gas. How did you even find me?

I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

I like birds because they are bovine. You are the only one who knows that. They are not feeble or angelic! Eight hollowed bones in each wing and they spend all day nesting. MORONS.

NO ONE ELSE UNDERSTANDS. 

Year Eight (365 days times 8 plus 2 leap years and 3 hours)

Rules:

(1) Never leave me.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

You are my star; my nested bird in chaos.

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Take Up Space

When I feel nervous or scared or intimidated by the brawny world around me, I close off. I leave whatever goals or tasks were on my to-do list and about-face back to my comfort zone, shrinking several inches from my already small 5’2″ frame as I watch the busy world continue on around me. My text inbox racks up to 300+ messages, my emails pile as high as the caffeine I’d need to read them, and I fall down a dark hole of self-questioning and doubt (think Alice and Wonderland, but less drugs).

This is too big for me and everyone knows.

The pressure of my own expectations pile on me one pebble at a time until there’s suddenly a boulder resting on my chest. I feel small. I feel trapped. And I start wrapping everything I write, do or say with these two main fears:

Why does this matter to anyone

This doesn’t matter to anyone

This self-mutilating thought process is rough, and though I don’t find myself in that position everyday – I often struggle with letting doubt and insecurities control my ability to produce thoughtful, creative work.

Continue reading “Take Up Space”

New York Beauty

NY Beauty

In the center of me is happy

colored and layered and taut.

Like the first stitch in a scrim quilt

pulled through layers of scrap.

“A blithe event!” said one.

It is indecorous.

“We’ll need tulips for proof!”

Tack them loose.

“Stitch here with yellow!” said the little bee.

Whiplash is best.

“I have blue. Should I put that in, too?”

On the Gambesons.

“No! Layer on layer of happy!” the little bees circled.

“Until we craft who you are!”

And who I am Not.

 

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1.

I recently heard of something called automatic writing. In short, automatic writing is writing with intent to free your unconscious mind. It’s very Freudian and weird and cool.

I found a photo and sat for three minutes on the subway today, quickly jotting down every word that came to my mind after studying the patterns and red shoes on my little phone screen. I didn’t worry about grammar, or form, or how it would come across to anyone who read it. It was freeing and weird and oddly spiritual. I’m sharing below in hopes you join my hippy bandwagon:

1.

I am here.

I do not know why or how or what purpose my life entails but

I am here.

I have wounds and scars and marks I’d like to hide but

they are here.

One perfect. One flawed. One body. One mind.

I will not divide. I want to split.

I am one.

Be Good if You Can

My grandmother, Corrine Cotten, is shockingly aware and vocal about her human finitude. When I visit, she writes my name on little sticky notes and attaches the yellow squares to items of hers I may want one day. If you open a closet at her house, chances are you’ll see a pile of old quilts, pillows, hand-made vases from her sister Norma, or jewelry from her “wild days” labeled with the names of my cousins, aunts and uncles on the same little yellow squares. You can even see the various family names etched in sharpie marker on the back of larger items that are still in daily use throughout the house. Like packing up for a big move, her house is always on the cusp of that final transition. It is a weird mix of death and life, past and present, memory and moment, and I am uncomfortably aware that nothing she passes on will ever feel the same without her around. The kitchen table, for instance, is only special if we are playing SkipBo together with a cup of coffee in hand, and the jewelry from her “wild days” is only fun when she wraps it around her body and shows me the best way to move my belly so that each metal string shakes and chimes. Heirlooms won’t have that same Corrine spirit when she’s gone, but I love her gifts that give insight into her past – even if they are tinged with acceptance and muddled with final farewells.

At age 16, she sent me off with a rad, 1970’s gold belt and the most beautiful blue and crystal screw back earrings because, as she said, “you never know what will happen”. Last year at Thanksgiving, Corrine was wearing an old shirt from a church revival that said “Riot ’88”. 1988 is my birth year and I’m obviously a riot, so I LOST MY SHIT. I raved about how cool it was for a solid ten minutes until Corrine snuck off into the back room, changed into a pretty blue sweater with blue heart appliqués, and handed me the “Riot ’88” shirt that was just on her back two minutes earlier. This is who Corrine is. She is selfless, but strong with a firm voice and a soft heart. She is the cliché perfect grandmother that every child reads about in YA novels.

Riot 88

Continue reading “Be Good if You Can”

On Repeat

My whole day has gone and I’ve got nothing to show for it. I sat in front of a computer at 5am to write and, here I am; watching night fall with only a sentence or two down. I’ve done nothing to justify the adderall, three cups of coffee, leftover Indian, and three melted chocolate Lindt truffles I’ve consumed, but I keep up with the flow of bad habits in hopes that a life of monotonous suffering will somehow produce a prosperous return. What have I done all day?

I want to be a writer, or at least that’s what I’ve told myself for the past ten years. I want to be a writer, or a bird, or a duck, or even a band-winged flying fish. I tell myself I am a writer like there’s an optimistic guru hidden somewhere in my soul, but when the time is finally carved out to write I’ve got no authority. I am beat down and pessimistic. Which perhaps is a valid feeling for a writer, or a fish. I said one day I’d write about this giraffe that’s been walking around my head or about a kid named George being scared of the shore, but I can’t persuade those thoughts to leave the hidden corners of my mind. They’re trapped in a tangle of expectations, weighted with heavy soil-less potting mix like seedlings in a ten dollar garden kit under prefabricated light. I can’t force them out, so I break from the business of doing nothing to buy a bottle of wine in my sweatpants. On my way back to writing I watched dusk fall and street lamps flicker on; a whole day gone again.

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What’s Your Husband Think About That?

A couple of months ago I wrote a paper during a visit home to Louisiana. It was a midterm about Hillary Clinton and the haltering statistics that kept her from the presidency. I’m an all-star procrastinator in general, but the 15-pages about Hill drug on for an unusual amount of time, mostly because the topic proposal I submitted months prior was geared around Hillary winning. You know, because I LIVE DEEP IN THE BROOKLYN BUBBLE.

I had loads of articles proving America had shown significant signs of progress (ie: increased percentages of career women, number of women in the Senate, the lame ass statistic guru over at FiveThirtyEight, my own personal outlook of Clinton being the political version of Beyonce, etc. etc). Equipped with some dope quotes from Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray, I planned on showing how Hillary’s win was an inevitable step in furthering the trend of gender equality. But Hill didn’t win (cue cries), and instead of writing about America’s progress my paper shifted to a dark depiction on the social restraints that still hold the female race back.

In the midst of my writing delirium, I ventured down from my hideout spot overlooking the bayou to refill my coffee cup and steal a few more sugar cookies. While I sat in the kitchen, a sweet friend of the family asked what I’d been doing all day:

“Writing”, I said.

“Writing what?” he responded.

“A feminism paper.”

“What’s your husband think about that?”

I could talk for hours about the irony in that line, but I’ll let Bey take care of that shit.

Image result for beyonce with bat gif

Continue reading “What’s Your Husband Think About That?”

Wildly Grounded

I recently heard someone say, “they belonged” in New York. She didn’t mean she deserved to be here, rather she couldn’t survive anywhere else. After roaming across the country at a young age, she landed in East Village and fell trap to its charm. She’s been here 15+ years and now calls NYC home. When I met her, she was celebrating the anniversary of her move to the city. While she basked in the empowerment of her growth and independence, my heart hurt. I felt an urge to exonerate my roots – a strange deviation from my usual mindset.

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#BKNY

Sometimes roots feel like a trap. They meander around each other like a snake – coiling in a stationary wheel and wrapping with it a wistful nostalgia that you belong. Some people stay – some escape; nature has no preference. Life still grows from the dirt, leaves wither and bloom, branches break and rebuild. Sure, to anyone in the whimsical leaves, the roots are stifling, but that’s because you know their power. You have explored the crisp air, experienced the roughest part of seasons, and learned to mold and reform in the feeble stability of your freestanding stem. You are adventurous in your careless evergreen, but the roots are charming and infectious. They are you; you are one in the same.

There is comfort in the absolutism of my roots. I understand now that they are part of who I am, and my desire to roam is a desire to expand – not escape. Because there is no escaping. The past is where it belongs. It is planted as a means to stabilize your future. Growing into something wilder doesn’t mean you are any less you, you are just a little bit more.

 

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How Selfies Ruin Everything

 

I woke up the day after the election to a text from a friend that said, “I didn’t think this was possible.”  I opened CNN, along with all of my social media accounts, to make sure this was really happening. I thought for sure someone was going to let us all know something disastrous happened at the polls. Maybe they miscounted 49% of the votes? 

As the reality of a Trump presidency started to breathe itself into existence, I set out to blame everyone. I blamed the third party voters for wasting their ballot. I blamed the black community for not showing up like they did for Obama. I blamed the DNC who ruined us when they pushed for Clinton instead of Bernie. I blamed the Christians who voted against abortions, but for misogyny and rape. I blamed the working class in America who wanted change – no matter who gave it to them. I blamed the liberal media for deceiving us into thinking Trump didn’t stand a chance. I blamed SNL for sensationalizing Trump’s persona by mocking him, subsequently drawing more press and attention to his campaign. I blamed Fox News for turning him into someone relatable; someone a guy could chat with in a locker room.

I turned into everything I hated about Trump, blaming everyone but myself. Because after all – I was the progressive thinker who voted Hillary. 

In my state of naivety, I scrolled through Instagram for a break from the news, but my heartache deepened. In my feed I saw Khloe Kardashian bragging that her Lip Kit sold out in 6 seconds, I scrolled through selfies of intelligent women with Snapchat puppy-dog noses and flower crowns, spotted Kyle Richards advertising a hair vitamin with over 10k likes, and watched Kate Upton share her secrets to “the perfect brow”. Is this what ruined us? Do we not believe in ourselves? Are we too caught up in the hype of media, the hype of selfies, of being pretty? Are we too afraid to think independently? Are we afraid of taking charge? Are we afraid of being powerful, instead of sexy? How else could 53% of female voters elect this man? Do they not know their own value? 

I wanted to throw my phone across the room, or anywhere that could magically make the female race look more like it does in my head. 

I am not insinuating that the state of our country rests solely in the hands of our Instagram feed, but if you’ve been wondering what is keeping us from being seen as the next president of the United States – It’s your selfie, it’s my selfie, and it’s our need to promote our beauty more than the authoritative person that lives behind what the world wants us to be. Why is this how we choose to represent who we are? Why is this the norm for women? If we want to be perceived as powerful, we need to start representing that in our feeds instead of doe-eyed selfies with porcelain skin. If we want the media to stop placing us on an impossible standard – we need to stop trying to meet that standard. There are lots of reasons we lost and there are copious people we can fault, but it is hard to deny the fact that we lost because Hillary Clinton was compared against an ideal version of what society thinks a woman should be. She lost and we will continue to lose until that depiction of women is shifted.

When the results started rolling in Tuesday I felt threatened. I felt lied to, betrayed and even undermined by a nation that could actually vote and side with a man so bitter towards progress and equality. On Wednesday, when I  had to continue on with my life, everything seemed pointless. Why go to school when no one will ever see me as a leader? Why educate myself when I’ll only ever be seen as a number between 1 & 10? This isn’t the life I voted for. 

This election, if nothing else, has given me a strange urgency to tell you your voice is powerful. You are powerful on your own accord. You don’t need me, or any sensationalized media to derive self worth. I hope you know that.

lenny
Image from Lenny Letter

Trump winning is not the female race’s fault, but maybe we can take this election as a growing pain that pushes us to a higher, more authoritative mindset. I’m not saying we can’t feel beautiful, dress well, or wear makeup. We are beautiful women, and I love the desire to express that, but we need to focus on flouting the image 49% of the United States have towards women. This win says a lot about our nation, about our gender equality, and about the female race not being taken seriously. It’s time we change our mindset. It’s time we change the mindset of everyone who can’t see past the girl. We are powerful. Let’s make everyone else think that too.

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You’re on the Uprise

Yesterday was just like any other day. I had my normal cup of Red Hook Roast coffee while I walked Mosie our usual path around the corner of Dekalb. I got dressed while Lucius played in the background and quietly praised my expensive boutique workout classes when my pants zipped without much effort. I walked a mile to the subway, the same path I take everyday, and made a mental note to finally try that South African place I keep eyeing. A rising sense of rush came over as I watched bikers race in business pants with their briefcases attached to the side of their city bikes. Horns echoed while red lights acted as downtown Brooklyn’s morning dictator. I looked down at my espadrilles and thought, I should walk faster.

I raced down the concrete stairs of the subway station, bolted through the turnstile like I had somewhere really important to be, and skipped the final steps to the platform just as the B train left screeching like a lightening bolt with the speed of a snail. I waited 5 mins for the next train while I pretended like it was a real hassle so to fit in with the other commuters. The crowd of straphangers grew denser, each one taking turns looking down the barrel in anticipation for their next bout of habitual morning tasks. I began to question the train’s schedule just as its light peaked through the darkness.

We all boarded, too eager to permit current passengers an easy exit. We filed in like ants marching to a crumb and piled tight with an awkward I don’t know you this well disposition. I peaked over a burly man’s shoulder as we rode across East River and gawked as the Manhattan sky line came into view. Kanye was playing in my ear buds per usual. 

It was a normal day. It was exactly like the day before.

I walked up from the subway at 42nd street in Mid Town. The Chrysler Building was beaming in the sunlight, a new AM New York was thrown into my hands, and the crosswalk was filled with people already checking emails on their iPhones. Bryant Park’s fountain made a fresh come back from its winter break, but mostly – today was exactly like the day before.

And the day before that one.

I walked past the same street performer I saw yesterday. He sat with two hamsters, two rabbits and a parrot all piled on the same ratty, tan carpeted cat tower they’ve been sitting on year round. A sad dog sat next to the tower with another rabbit on the sidewalk. The city streets seemed to fly by them, almost as if they were an island of stillness. New tourists crowded around – making it seem like the sedated animals were something really thrilling, but they were all the same as the day before.

I walked up to my office building, swiped my card to pass through security, rode the elevator up to the top floor and thought – how is this weird, hectic life so normal to me now? I’d already forgotten the time I didn’t feel like a local here.

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Yesterday a friend said to me, “Aren’t we living the dream?” My mind began to race with everything that was currently on my things to accomplish list as I tried to place this dream he was talking about.

What dream?

In a slew of days, weeks and months small changes in life merge until you can no longer see where you started, only where you are. When I look back at the starting point, I can hardly remember what led me here. This was my dream since I was 16 years old, and while I celebrated the moment when I found out it was coming to fruition, I haven’t celebrated my time here. My time actually getting to live the dream out. I think a lot of us forget that. We work and work for something to happen, and never return the acknowledgment that we achieved something. 

I’m constantly looking forward for what’s to come, etching out in my mind what I need to do to get to the next now, that I forget all of the feats that led me this far. I forget to enjoy where I am.

I guess what I’m trying to say (mostly to myself) is, just because you’ve made it to your dream doesn’t mean you’ve finished living it. Don’t let a big feat feel like a small feat when you spent years getting there.

Stop chasing and start living it out.

 

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