Monthly Archives: July 2016

Word Salad

I know exactly what I want to say and every reason that I’m not speaking clearly.

There lies within me a desperate desire to be understood – to speak and to be accepted, as if the very nature of my ideas could make me less vital to the people who I love. It isn’t unique or particularly interesting, but it’s there and it’s an important context to bear in mind when I falter in my ability to speak.

Those moments always move me off-center as I try to predict my conversation partner’s response before uttering a word – as I try to balance the human need for understanding and the intense discomfort of vulnerability. For as much as I preach vulnerability and the sharing of stories, even I have to admit that the very act shakes me to my core (and beyond, often keeping me up at night as my anxiety replays every syllable, breath by breath, assuring me that somehow my stories have ruined something new).

In other words, it’s fucking terrifying.

The stories I want to share are often so much bigger than me – they are loud and sad and hard to hear, but they matter. They matter. So I am careful. I practice conversations dozens of times before sitting down with someone. I rehearse. I edit. But sometimes I misspeak, or break down, or stay silent when I should raise my voice. I am still trying to figure out how to be the person I want to be.

Thank you for reading, especially with an open heart. Thank you for tolerating my odd silences whenever my tongue unravels. Thank you especially to the friends who have taught me the value of speaking, of sharing, of opening wounds in order to clean them out.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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A Letter to Fort Collins

In the end, I didn’t hate you – or, to paraphrase,

it is the end and I am amazed.

You almost swallowed me whole, you know. And I was so angry because of it, so inwardly vicious, so poisonous. How else do you kill a thing with teeth?

Anyway.

Fort Collins, I met you at seventeen, pursuing you with hazy determination. I had chosen you at eight years old, promised to find your soil beneath my feet, planted myself amongst the mountains and trees and waited to feel… something. And I did.

I lost my friends here. I was stalked and lied to and assaulted here, twice. I was shamed and humiliated here. I hurt so badly here.

For the longest time, it felt like you hated me. Imagine that – a little girl dreams of escaping to a bustling town for nine years, only to have the city spit in her face. Only to be ripped apart and rearranged, to be called a whore and a liar, to be turned inside out by those she considered friends.

But change is always painful.

So maybe you didn’t hate me. Maybe you loved me like I loved loose teeth as a child – I yanked the teeth from my mouth, swallowing the blood as my tongue traced its old permiter. You ripped at my edges until it ached, yeah, but there was something stronger underneath. Or maybe you didn’t think of me at all and this story is one more broken narrative I’ll have to revisit later.

Maybe.

Just to be safe: thank you for what you gave me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to build myself time and time again. Thank you for teaching me every lesson, especially the ones that ended poorly. Thank you for letting me leave with my dignity, my humor, my words. Thank you for the professors who changed my life. Thank you for letting me live. Thank you for my beautiful, strong friends who found me here, who kept me here – thank you for housing the man I love, thank you for bringing us all together. Thank you for being the last place I knew Mani alive. We used to conpare our mountain towns and I think she would’ve found so many places to love here.

Fort Collins, this is the first thing I remember writing about you:

“Temporary girl in a temporary town –
someday I’ll run away and burn it all down.”

It’s almost funny to read that couplet now. Neither of us is running, you’re still standing, and I’ve never felt more permanent.

Thank you.

xoxox

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The Luxury of Forgetting

On December 2nd, 2014, I called my boss at Ruby Tuesday’s and told him I had been sexually assaulted by a member of the staff. He promised me that someone from corporate would call me as I cried, my hand tightly wound in that of my best friend’s, and he wished me luck. Seven months later, I called corporate myself.

I spoke to a woman named Chris and she brought about one of the most hurtful moments I had ever experienced. I explained who I was, how I was assaulted, everything – and all she would say was that it was not the company’s fault. Nearing tears, I asked her why she hadn’t called me the week of the assault and Chris said, “Someone should’ve been in touch. I would’ve called, but I forgot.”

She forgot one of the most terrible moments of my life, something that continues to haunt me to this day. I asked her how that luxury felt, having the space to drop someone’s trauma at the door, and she had no answer. How could she?

I was reminded of that feeling this past week. I was discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, arguing with people who refuse to acknowledge the systematic oppression that faces black Americans, and all the sudden I wanted to stop. For a second, I wanted to forget. It made me nauseous and anxious and I wanted a reprieve.

All at once, I felt disgusted by myself. I had the luxury of forgetting and I knew how much easier it would be. For a moment, I wanted it. But how could I?

I heard Chris’ harsh voice grating in my ear, saying she forgot to call, and I wanted to cry. I couldn’t be that person. I can’t be a useful comrade to this movement without paying this price – a price that, as a white woman, is so much less costly than that of the black community. If I was less of a person, I could drop their struggles at the door and refuse to speak, refuse to use my privilege to act, refuse and refuse and refuse.

But I would hate myself for being a passive participant. I would hate myself for standing by while others were in pain. I can’t do it.

Here’s what I’m reading in the hopes that I’ll be a more useful member of the movement. I highly suggest that white people read along with me. There’s so much work to do.

allhouses

From the brilliant cartoonist at chainsawsuit.com. Check him out!

Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves

If we do not help make a difference, we are a part of the problem.

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The Anxiety of Happiness

This summer is, without a doubt, the best of my life.

I’m excelling at my job, I am surrounded by endlessly kind and supportive friends, I get to spend an inordinate amount of time with a thoroughly lovely man, my art is lighter… This is the life I could not imagine for myself on my best day as a child. I cannot believe it’s unfolding around me.

It scares me.

I am not used to experiencing so much goodness at once. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real, as if I’ve stepped into someone else’s life with both feet. My anxiety makes me glance over my shoulder, almost shaking as I wait for them to show up and demand their happy little life back.

I feel like I could ruin it at any moment.

I am clumsy and too talkative and oddly aloof, detached when I don’t mean to be, altogether too far to reach and too close to escape. I am worried that I don’t have the tools to maintain this happiness, or that my decision to move to Denver will rupture it prematurely. For the first time in five years, I don’t hate this town. We’ve walked under black skies, our hearts in our hands as we laugh into the moonlight. My people have made Fort Collins beautiful and now I have to leave. I’m scared of what’s to come.

There is no neat ending to this story, only a gentle recognition that I am trying my best – that what is coming will come and until then, I’ll keep holding hands and laughing too loudly and treasuring everyone who has painted my life in these brilliant shades. I never thought it was possible to feel this whole.

2016-07-03 10.11.28

I am so grateful.

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