no further promises

 

Sometimes, though, I paint everything in buttery yellow. Golden vanilla curls, childhood mac and cheese, chocolate chip cookies with sprinkles on top, card games by the flickering fire. Punk chords echo past the empty cupboards designed for women who had more time and less freedom. The first light switch from the door is in the back of the kitchen, for starters, because why would the heart of the home be dark? Late night glow above the oven, wool socks on the time capsule tile. Outside the world is cold, and yes, we have all seen so much lately. But in this place, I can keep us warm.

When I was fifteen, I lived alone. My mother worked second shift at a fast food restaurant, and spent her days off with a boyfriend. My dad would pick me up from school downtown in his construction van, and maybe we would get McDonald’s before he dropped me off down the block. My little brother lived with him, because he was too much to handle, but it was better than the summer before when we slept on the floor. Sometimes I would order pizza, or if I had walked to the grocery store with the food stamp card, I would cook. In a rented kitchen with handwritten recipes and all the books that broke my back, and stories in my head about the old couple that lived upstairs, I lived mostly in my head. I made believe, with my chamomile tea and roughly chopped celery, that my home was full of laughter and little feet and most of all love.

I still hate being alone.

The idea probably came from a book I had read, but when the bedroom began to feel cold, I decided to paint it. Entirely unsupervised on a ladder, I sang along with Norah Jones for an entire weekend, until cheap Walmart dandelion latex was dried under every single one of my nails. In the bubble bath, I scrubbed them with a fancy manicure brush and thought, this must be what it will be like, when I am an adult and I have my own apartment.

(Sidenote: I was wrong, because millennials will never be able to buy a damn thing.)

But I learned the capabilities of color and music, and how we can be okay in dark places if we let in a little light.

This is the part where I am supposed to reassure you I have not lost my mind, although I suspect we both know twenty nine is a tough year. Add that to the tightlipped turmoil of two thousand seventeen, and the fact that over summer (in a series of narrowly missed disasters) we sold the tv and everything else in a trailer park yard sale and traveled sixty five hundred miles, and I tied the knot in a teenage dream come true, two months prior to the deadliest shooting in the country. The roads I traveled literally caught on fire in the rearview mirror, and the city I divorced two years ago nearly drowned in the ocean, and the ashy sun turned blood orange like the crescent moon off the coast of California.

Things have been strange, to say the least.

The truth though, is that I have never been able to think so clearly. It cost all this time to see that the clock is a liar, and chaos will never slow. The pacific cradled me in the wing of a phoenix and here we stay, so here I am.

WTF THOUGH

“What hole are you trying to fill by calling yourself a blogger? Quit now before you get burnt out and feel guilty. Quit before you feel like a failure instead of finding the intersection of happy and fulfilled.”

My words, last year and a lifetime ago.

The critics knew first, of course. She will be back, they cut me up and brushed me off. But they usually do. So much has changed though, and the world is a different place. And all day long, drums dance around my messy mind and now I don’t hear all the noise that I used to. Erasing myself was never the goal, only identifying the problem. When you unravel a life down to the essentials, and remove all the distractions that hold you back in a day, you too might discover more than you wanted to find.

There is no one to blame, don’t worry. When the static is too loud, it can be difficult to distinguish which relationships and habits we have that still serve us, and which are actually toxic. When you are tangled in a toxic relationship, especially if your entire life is built around that connection, you will understand the accuracy of the word, because that is what most of us feel these days. Poisoned, and it just isn’t fair. Nobody willingly drinks poison. It’s hidden inside of something sweet, or something that appears to be good for us. And once it’s inside, it eats away at everything, but you might not even notice anything is wrong. By the time you figure out what hurts and why, it’s too late, and it’s already soaked through all of your cells. And all you can do is watch the damage work dark magic and hope you will remember how to heal, and try to distance yourself from more exposure to the toxicity. Nothing else you can do in the meantime, just wait, and forgive yourself. This is not your fault, just poison burning it’s way out, and spoiling every good thing it touches.

But we have to let it burn to feel better. Otherwise, it lingers in your bones and drains every last resource of body and mind. It spreads to every positive thing left in this world and suffocates the senses and sends us crawling inside to keep to ourselves and tend to our own wounds. The symptoms fade, time ticks in a miserable state of detox, no sleep. It scares us because we never see it coming. I don’t think it is something inside of you, or me, or that we want to poison ourselves. Just some chemistry experiment gone wrong where we all want more all the time and no one will ever be satisfied, but we hold on to things to calm our fears and never quiet our minds enough again to wake up from our nightmares.

After we recognize that something in our life is toxic, and it no longer serves us, then our true thoughts (even the warm fuzzy kind you had as a child) become reality.

I am done burning. And when I let go of all the guilt, I found freedom in my newfound ability to glow like the embers. If we accept the world for what it is, we are not afraid of the cold, because we know how to keep each other warm. Creativity can be a curse, true, but oh honey, art can heal. Not that any of this is a choice. It just comes out, you know. The filters are the problem, and our fucked up idea of perfection, and the fear that someone might finally admit how poisoned we are. I will let you know when I figure out how to fix all that.

For now though, we can only offer what we have. If we accept ourselves for what we are, we are not afraid of the dark, because we trust the stars.

Something brought us here, and you to me, as the moon brings the tide.

You might find what you need, in my words, or in the way the wires in my nerves string thoughts together. I want you to analyze this messy mind and tell me about all the impossible things. You might find yourself, somewhere in the spill, or the way I lullaby the letters. I want you to take my stories to bed with you, when the monsters come. And I want you to laugh. My god how I want us to laugh.

Remember? The way we did, at 2am on the telephone when the music stopped playing, and still we never wanted to hang up.

Most of all, I want you to know you are not alone.

dollhouse love

 

One more time, we got this.

Even without glasses, because eyesight is overrated and headphones help me more. And because I left them on the floor, fumbling in the forty degree dark, crawling to the fireplace with my keyboard and blanket. And I left them in a gazebo at midnight when I was a little more awkward and making out in cars, and there was no ocean where we lived so I tried instead to drown myself in love. This kid in a band held my hand back down those small town blocks, and helped me find what I needed so I could see the streets again.

Twelve summers later, he inked up those fingers for me, and held mine across half the country. We crossed all our t’s and dotted our i’s and had it all mapped out to get entirely lost in the magic that happens when you strip down a life to nothing more than two glowing souls, tangled together and unattached to the tangible.

There should be a warning label though, where my mouth is. Trying to build me a life from broken things takes so much work, and being forced to first break down all my fucked up walls is so entirely unfair. All the roads caught on fire in the rear view, and eventually I told him I broke the microwave because the mediocre broke me and maybe he shouldn’t have married me. But just to prove all his patience he plugged it back in the wall, and laughed at me, I suppose for thinking I am so tough. He taught me you can’t jump off bridges that have already been burnt and then kept the keys safely in his pocket while I kicked and cried like a child until I fell asleep.

Just a kid and his radio, he helped me to find what I needed so I could hear the music again.

Now when we wake up, golden light and warm lips give us the pines on the wall in a shadow, like the projectors that made desks romantic in the dark. Temporary but beautiful nonetheless, until the tasks of the day takeover and our tender hearts are told time and time again that there is so much to do and be done, but no one taught us how and they all forgot the why. So we spin in circles up the stairs and down them again, sending grocery lists in texts where love letters should spill and signing school papers until the sun has set and smoke fills the sky and his fingers find my hair. The string lights come undone and all the children sleep and when they wake up, so do I.

Sometimes, it will be this way. Like a dollhouse in your palm, you can see the whole picture. Watch me paint my eyes and put myself together, watch me twirl around the deck and have tea in pretty dresses and mostly empty rooms. Sometimes the electricity is on in all the halls and closets, and life is so transparent and weightless, like the mountain air that pours in where the walls are cut in half. And I want you to see how happiness works, so I put on a sweater instead of closing the shutters.

And you can watch me take it off, too. Blushing suits my pretty porcelain face.

Sometimes, you may choose to be my witness, and take from what you see all that you need to remember how hearts keep beating.

And when your arms are tired from carrying all that you do, and you just need a lullaby, find me. Tucked away in my imaginary attic, just a small amber square in the middle of the dark blue morning. You can see tiny splinters and too many tacky gel pens and a notebook with blue lines on the paper and the name Parker, scribbled in between the messy math problems. Mostly, you can seek comfort in the lyrics, and the effortless way they tug at all the corners, in cursive or bold or helvetica black.

Sometimes, everything else is dark. The only thing you will find is a torn page, or a fuckton of them crumpled in the cobwebs, catching the tiny plastic curtains on fire and choking the life out of the thoughts in my lace bonnet head.

But some of us have learned to keep ourselves warm in the most unconventional ways.

 

grey to green

 

You would think I tried to erase myself.

But we’ll come back to that. I am supposed to tell you about the blog, and we have to chat about the weather first. Because really, there have only been two days of storms. Most of the time, the air just feels ready to rain, like it could burst and spill at any moment.

I understood immediately, though, the way the northwestern sky swallows you. The meteorologists here have come up with a million different ways to say cloudy, and still none of them can capture the way you feel. In the middle of the afternoon on a desaturated day, it seems quite possible that things have always been this way, and there were never mountains, and sunflowers have always been grey, and the clock and everyone who watches it may just stand still forever in a dizzy, misty haze until the end of time.

But the pines offer reassurance, with their optimistic branches taller and stronger than us, that time is something we fucking made up. And there was a yesterday as sure as there will be a tomorrow, only labeled in our minds and not counted by the savage black crows who wake me up every morning and watch me, from the trees beyond the deck, sipping my hipster spice coffee that was on sale today but won’t be next week because we sketched the seasons into a calendar and wrote a bunch of rules that crows don’t give a fuck about. They make me nervous. Their cries echo so eerily across the field, carrying down the firs and hills and bouncing off my spine. The children found one dead while they were playing in the field behind the house, and now the three year old keeps saying ‘die’ over and over. I don’t trust them to swoop down for my eyes like sparkly green marbles, leaving me blind and bleeding. Which is irrational, yes, but keeps me suspicious nonetheless.

So these are the things I think in the morning, and also how I am jealous of the gardeners. To be honest, it might not even be a garden. I can only see silhouettes, of a man and a woman, backlit by the sunrise, and sometimes in colorful clothes if they had Saturday off and decided to spend it outside. Tiny dots, way up high where the hills meet the clouds, weaving in and out of things green and growing wild around them. I am jealous of their commitment to the mediocre, and I imagine they do not have chaos in their cells like the air and the crows and me. But maybe they do, and they plant their thoughts in the earth and trust them to bloom and trust them to never catch fire.

It has to be different this time though. Nothing is as fucked up as you think it is. Sometimes playful hearts become mischievous in restless souls, and they play tricks, like the light that splashes through the branches and across your gorgeous face. I get a glimpse of that flame inside, only for a moment. Ready, desperate even. What if I burst and spill? What if I put my thoughts here? Can I trust you?

The pursuit of perfection is a disease, and I need a cure as much as I crave sleep, or saltwater in the pitch black places where my lungs should be. Curtains drawn until we heal, I bid my time and tell myself it is all temporary. The leaves will fall and October will come, and then it will go, and we will still be breathing, picturesque and timely autumn nonsense or not. We are not supposed to be capable of ceasing to exist, for when we feel burnt out, our star cells shine brighter in the hearts of those who can carry us. But you have to trust the sun to rise, and the moon when she sings you to sleep, and that shit will make sense again one day soon and you will be okay and you are exactly where you need to be. And where we all need you to be.

So it will be a mess, yes, but sometimes we can find the most spectacular things in the most unexpected syllables, like the sweet release of all the uncomfortably worked up rain clouds, if only they have permission to fall from your nibbled on lips. And you can rest easy under the tapping of the tin roof, and turn that music up until you can hear it again, for I have learned a thing or two about the importance of saying please.

And thank you.

Thank you for understanding that I can only offer what I am, so if we’re gonna do this, it will have to be enough. Ready, set, spill, and the rest is just a delicate dance around some unspoken rules.