Student of Love

Last night, after hours and hours on the road, I crawled into the hotel bed, exhausted but mind still churning. I lay there naked under the covers next to my boyfriend and felt the familiar echoes of paranoia gradually growing louder and louder. The paintings on the walls seemed profoundly ominous, the air hard to breathe, the soothing words out of my lover’s mouth a full script of double entendre which ultimately lead my mind into a confusion of morbid thoughts. The soft lighting in the room was suddenly menacing and our road trip turned into an elaborate ruse. I felt 100% certain for about an hour that the world had turned into a death trap for me and I’d wash up on the beach, cold dead in the morning.

At one point, my lover turned to me and said, “Why can’t you believe in love?” I was too terrified to even open my mouth. I blinked back at him, dumbly, shivering under the blankets and wishing more than anything that I could feel something other than this profound darkness, this paralysis of heart and mind and limb. I felt like a rabbit in a wolf’s den–powerless, cold, no way out, no light, no love, no direction…it was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced.

I don’t know where these moods come from. Dread seems to seep out of the walls and float through the air like deadly spores. It spreads its contagion of fear and makes a zombie out of me. It turns me small and helpless.

There is something deep inside of me I am waiting to face. It feels like my Balrog in the heart of Moria–the thing which will either drag me to hell or encourage me to reimagine life and love. To level up and become the white wizard I’ve always wanted to be. To experience real, visceral aliveness. To know love in all its power. To carry light because I’ve met the dark.

I am now lying in my bed at home awaiting the fear. Calmly, essential oils diffusing next to me, my boyfriend an arm’s length away. I don’t know when it will come again, or how exactly I’ll react–I do know that next time, I’ll work a little harder to hold space for love. I’ll work a little harder to show myself the way. I’ll work a little harder to reach for connection in the vulnerability. I’ll work to be a student of love.

Utah to Water

I drove from Salt Lake City, Utah to Seaside, Oregon today with my boyfriend. All things told, it’s a little over a twelve hour drive. We passed through miles and miles of nothing but asphalt, desert, and whichever little yellow sunflower-like wildflowers spray the side of the road in a cheery salute.

We passed by the Snake River, and saw the marked line where the irrigation from the river water begins and ends in brown, brushy nothingness while listening to a podcast about space. Desert-dwelling creatures might as well be alien for their adaptive resilience, as far as I’m concerned. This soft human’s animal senses are dulled by florescent lighting, gas station Dorito knockoffs, and air conditioning. I don’t think I would last ten minutes out there.

But from the comforts of the temperature-controlled automobile, the ride was pleasant. My boyfriend found a questionnaire for “new couples,” designed to see how compatible we are. Each of us took turns answering the questions and taking in each others’ perspective. We learned we are quite similar for all our differences, though a few questions required point-blank answers with little room for grace.

Is it possible to over-communicate in a relationship? Should some things be left to the imagination, or still yet never uttered? I spoke my truth today knowing some of my thoughts run precisely contrary to my those of my lover. At one point I wondered if I should just shut my damned mouth already…but isn’t the point of a relationship mutual honesty?

We talked in depth about fidelity, opposite sex friendships, and integrity. Is a phone call with hard news better than secrets? At what point does same sex friendship become so-called “emotional cheating”? What are the duties of a faithful spouse?

After a while I found myself clamming up. I began to get a little crosseyed as I realized that pure honesty is, in itself, a colossal form of commitment. As someone who has a hard time picturing herself getting married, I confess this caused me more than a moment of silent terror. I have since shaken the demons back to the shadows.

As a self-obsessed writer, I of course have many theories as to why I am afraid of commitment. (Parental emotional abandonment, premature birth, living on the spectrum, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, fear of codependency, fawning attachment style, dissociation from previous damaging relationships…the list is long and eats its own tail.)

I, like all of us, live with many demons. Some days those demons win. I am looking for the 10% break in the dark where clear, blue sky shines through. It is the only way I can keep going sometimes. I assume it’s the only way any of us can get through the fucking day.

I began to spiral into self-doubt (and worse, self-diagnosis) when we reached the Columbia River gorge. Within minutes of being in the Pacific Northwest, it began dumping rain, violently, and a thick fog swallowed the the river, interstate, and the nearby cliff face. The sun burst through bruise-colored clouds like the white light on the inside of a clam shell. I felt the bruise on my heart begin to heal, the thoughts in my head begin to dissipate, and my fears begin to fall short of matching to proverbial “vibe” of my surroundings. Damn it, Nature, but you really are the boss. Out there being all beautiful and powerful while I’m drowning in my own insecurities and wishing I could crawl into bed. Did you really need to blast me with such a spectacular sunset? I get it, you’re the queen, no one can touch you and I am insignificant! Sheesh. If I were even remotely technologically inclined, I would insert a little eye-roll emoji here to really drive the message home.

I guess I’ll settle on the fact that both Nature and I tend towards using ancient technology. She throws the odd hurricane, and I still like to write letters. We’re creatures of habit, she and I.

Anyway, we made it to our seaside hotel. I don’t know if we exchanged a lot or exchanged a little. Only time will tell, but I think we exchanged quite a lot. How do you relearn how to trust a man? Is healing trust even a thing that can be done? All the way?

We made it over 850 miles in one day. Covered a lot of ground. I am still confused about love, but learning. Tomorrow, we go to the sea.

monument

a good poem is like a good lover

both stop you in your tracks

make you rethink the motions of your mouth

and the habits in your head.

a good lover is like a good poem

both make you tremble-soft

romancing nerve endings in sacred places

leaving footprints like kisses on a mountain trail.

to say “i love you” would be a silly thing

(words can be so cheap)

for all the aphorisms in the world,

i’d never leave you high and dry

i’d whet your whistle any time

i’d hold you ’til the cows come home

a good poem has its way with you

and makes you say strange things like that

(words can be so monumental)

fearless, today

the sun hangs lazy in the afternoon air

and i am tending to a fresh tattoo.

there is nowhere to be but lost in this ink,

contemplating the folds of love

and the rejection of relationship.

a good friend is like a wild blackberry,

and a best friend has thorns.

i aspire to be soft as the Utah breeze today,

tending lackadaisically northeast,

touching lips and temples and messy hair

gentle as knee high grass and

fearless as thunder.

Space Jesus?

Today, I explored the temples of Salt Lake City, Utah.

I came to this city with my love to visit my friend of nearly two decades, a woman who has helped shaped me as a feminist and friend, taught me to love the outdoors and cult classic ’80s movies, held my hair as I vomited, and will soon be sporting matching tattoos with me.

We meandered through the temple campus and explored the visitor’s center, learning about some of the nuances of the Mormon religion and paying homage to the so-called “space Jesus” at the crest of the spiraled building. I wandered through the waxy-looking Biblical figures and swallowed my crescendoing skepticism as I eyeballed everyone in the joint, wondering “Why are you here? How deep is your faith? Are you free?”

Of course I could ask myself the same questions, religiously orphaned as I am. I am not sure why I exist, much less why I found myself in the Mormon museum this afternoon, don’t know that I have much faith to speak of, and constantly ask myself if I am truly “free”. The concepts of personal control and free will have long haunted my decisions and spurred emotional responses to my environment, sometimes causing me to lash out like a caged beast at people or circumstances which are staggeringly–at least by American standards–normal. For all my fretting, I’m not sure I’ve made much progress. My compromise is leaving my baristas a healthy tip, writing the odd angsty poem, and getting out to see live music every now and again.

The truth is, “faith” fascinates me. At its humblest form, faith is required for growth. Faith in oneself the most fundamental characteristic necessary in order to look forward, improve, and self-actualize. At its most grandiose, faith is arguably the reason we evolved from herbaceous, jaw-grinding apes into the symbol-ridden, top-of-the-foodchain species we are today. Faith is unbelievably powerful.

I felt like a child in a bar, heretical as that analogy may be. Completely in over my head, out of my element, timid. I kept my hands clasped behind my back and tried to blend in. I’m still relieved they didn’t ask for my ID. Pretty sure I would’ve gotten kicked out of the establishment. I am a tattooed, pierced, bisexual heathen. I definitely do not have a pair of magical underwear to ascend into heaven, and certainly do not have a Mormon, penis-bearing chaperone to guide this vagina to the pearly gates.

I wonder what a devout Mormon would think in the Natural History Museum, if they would feel like scientists are lurking around every corner waiting to happily dismember and digest their lifestyle. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about museums today, it’s that evidence can be seen in the eye of the beholder–it’s just a matter of what narrative we’re looking to hang our proverbial hats on, which story we wish to ride into the future and defend. Is my reality any more real than anyone else’s? I can be a pompous asshole, but I’m not that much of an asshole. Besides, “asshole” is just one of my many faces. I am woman, hear me roar. In all my multi-faceted glory.

I guess we’re all looking for a little comfort. Thinking there were prophets and wise men and virtuous folks who chose to surrender their egos to a larger cause is beautiful. It is comforting, in a way, thinking that we could all believe in a united dream, could live the same story in peace and go to heaven when we die. As of now, I believe in the gospel word of Beyonce, and plan on being composted when I croak. (Let this nitrogen fuel up some plants! Hell yeah!! Circle of life, bitches!)

I will say this: for the morsels of faith I’ve sowed out of this bitter soul, I am learning to believe in the goodness of others. I am exploring the linings of my heart, seeding it with faith in a man and continuing to invest good love in myself. It’s all too easy to hate yourself in this world. But where’s the faith in that?

I explored a Mormon temple today, and let it explore me back. Faith is a practice, and tomorrow I will continue to lay down the stones which shape my own version of spirituality. The journey is only beginning.

My Freaky Manifesto

I don’t know if, dear reader, you have ever spooned back the velvet foam perched on top of a cappuccino to reveal the earth-colored, life-giving beverage below. (Any coffee fans out there? I happen to be a real snob.)

I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled the aroma of fresh sourdough bread baking after days of folding, ferment, and hour-counting, burgeoning into existence with a flavor demanding to be allies with brie, olive tapenade, or diced heirloom tomatoes with basil olive oil.

I don’t know if you tire of rhetorical questions, broad metaphorical allusions, niche food references, or our sociopolitical climate. But, treasured reader, I’m assuming you found your way here because you, too, are trying to make sense of it all.

In a world where all we can know for certain is that we know hardly anything at all, I am embarking on a journey of faith–faith in the goodness of people and the scrumptiousness of life. It is my goal to write faithfully to you for a year, elucidating my trials and tribulations, happy discoveries, questions, concerns, and the occasional feminist-language-soaked observations. If I can detail my experience seeking connection and meaning in a tumultuous brain, perhaps I can choose what pants to wear in the morning. Perhaps I am only kidding myself. Perhaps no pants is the best option. Most days I find this to be true.

I’m just a vaguely British-tinged American girl working out the boundaries of her womanhood (Are there any? Truly? If there are, what do they mean?!) and I’d love to be your friend. Come with me?